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Acceleration vs. Deceleration: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on November 27, 2023
Acceleration is the rate of change of velocity per unit time, while deceleration is the rate of decrease in velocity.

Key Differences

Acceleration and deceleration are both related to the change in the velocity of an object. Acceleration pertains to the increase in velocity or the rate at which an object speeds up. Whether an object moves faster in a straight line or changes its direction, it's said to be accelerating. In the world of physics, acceleration is not just associated with increased speed; it represents any change in velocity, which includes a change in direction.
Deceleration, conversely, specifically refers to the rate at which an object slows down. It's essentially negative acceleration. When a car approaches a stop sign and the driver steps on the brake, causing the vehicle to slow down, it's undergoing deceleration. Although acceleration, in a broader sense, can denote any change in velocity, deceleration is exclusively used to describe a decrease in speed.
Furthermore, it's vital to understand that both acceleration and deceleration are vector quantities. This means they possess both magnitude and direction. An object that turns at a constant speed, even if it doesn't speed up or slow down, is still accelerating because its direction is changing.
In summation, acceleration encompasses any change in an object's velocity, including increases in speed or changes in direction, while deceleration specifically refers to a decrease in speed or slowing down of an object.

Comparison Chart


Rate of change of velocity.
Rate of decrease in velocity.


Vector (has both magnitude and direction).
Vector (has both magnitude and direction).


Can be positive or negative based on context.
Generally considered negative acceleration.

Associated Motion

Speeding up or changing direction.
Slowing down.

Formula Aspect

Can be calculated using Δv/Δt.
Also calculated as Δv/Δt but with negative values.

Acceleration and Deceleration Definitions


Increase in the speed of an object.
The sports car's acceleration was breathtaking.


A change in velocity towards a slower rate.
The train's deceleration allowed passengers to safely disembark.


Change in velocity over time.
The car's acceleration impressed everyone.


Negative acceleration.
The sudden deceleration made him jolt forward.


A vector quantity that has direction and magnitude.
The ball's acceleration was downward due to gravity.


Reduction in speed over time.
The car's deceleration was smooth when approaching the stoplight.


Any alteration in velocity, including directional changes.
The planet's acceleration around the sun causes seasons.


The act or process of reducing speed.
Deceleration is crucial when driving in icy conditions.


The act or process of speeding up.
With sudden acceleration, the plane took off.


Slowing down of an object.
The car's deceleration was evident as it neared the school zone.


The act of accelerating.


To decrease the velocity of.


The process of being accelerated.


When a ball falls, is it accelerating or decelerating?

It's accelerating due to the force of gravity.

Which is a vector quantity: acceleration or deceleration?

Both are vector quantities as they have magnitude and direction.

Can acceleration refer to a change in direction?

Yes, acceleration covers any change in velocity, including direction.

Is a car that's turning but maintaining speed accelerating?

Yes, because there's a change in direction, hence a change in velocity.

Can deceleration be considered a form of acceleration?

Yes, deceleration is negative acceleration.

When does deceleration occur in a free-falling object?

Deceleration can occur if air resistance becomes a significant opposing force.

Can acceleration be zero?

Yes, if an object's velocity remains constant, its acceleration is zero.

Is deceleration just negative acceleration?

Yes, deceleration is essentially negative acceleration.

Which formula represents acceleration?

Acceleration can be represented as Δv/Δt.

What's a real-life example of deceleration?

A car slowing down as it approaches a red light is decelerating.

Are acceleration and force related?

Yes, according to Newton's second law, Force = mass x acceleration.

Can an object decelerate to a stop?

Yes, deceleration can bring an object to a complete stop if the rate of decrease in velocity is sustained.

Is it accurate to say all deceleration is acceleration?

Yes, because deceleration is a specific type of acceleration.

Which force often causes acceleration on Earth?

Gravity commonly causes objects to accelerate on Earth.

What's the difference between sudden acceleration and gradual acceleration?

Sudden acceleration is a rapid change in velocity, while gradual is a slower, more steady change.

What causes a car to decelerate without brakes?

Factors like friction, air resistance, or going uphill can cause deceleration.

Do we feel acceleration or constant velocity?

We typically feel changes in velocity, i.e., acceleration, not constant velocity.

Does deceleration mean an object has stopped?

No, it means the object is slowing down, but it might still be in motion.

Can an object be accelerating and decelerating simultaneously?

Not simultaneously. An object can either be speeding up (accelerating) or slowing down (decelerating) at any given moment.

Does an object always speed up when it's accelerating?

No, it can also change direction or even slow down depending on the context.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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