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Approximately vs. Exactly: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 13, 2024
"Approximately" means close to a certain value but not exact, while "exactly" means precisely or without any deviation.

Key Differences

"Approximately" implies a degree of uncertainty or a range around a specific value, suggesting that the exact number is not critical. In contrast, "exactly" denotes precision and exactness, where the value mentioned is accurate without any margin of error.
When using "approximately," one allows for a margin of error or variation, acknowledging that the precise value is unknown or unimportant. "Exactly," however, affirms that the given information is precise and there is no room for variation or error.
In measurements, "approximately" is used when exact figures are unnecessary or unavailable, whereas "exactly" is used when precise and unambiguous figures are required.
"Approximately" is often employed in everyday language to convey estimates or generalizations, while "exactly" is used to convey factual, specific information.
In communication, "approximately" can suggest flexibility or estimation, whereas using "exactly" can indicate clarity, accuracy, and often, a stronger emphasis on the information being exact.

Comparison Chart


Not precise, allows for some deviation.
Precise, with no deviation.

Use in Language

Often used for estimates or ranges.
Used for specific, accurate information.

Mathematical Context

Used in approximations or rough figures.
Used for exact figures and calculations.

Communication Tone

Suggests a degree of flexibility.
Indicates certainty and accuracy.


Less critical for exact details.
Essential for precision and accuracy.

Approximately and Exactly Definitions


Nearly but not precisely.
It's approximately a ten-minute walk.


Precisely and without deviation.
The answer is exactly 42.


In the vicinity of a certain number.
The temperature is approximately 75 degrees.


In an accurate and unerring manner.
He followed the instructions exactly.


Close to but not exactly.
The cost is approximately $100.


Used to emphasize the truth.
That's exactly what I meant.


Roughly estimated.
Approximately 20 people attended the event.


Literally or in a strict sense.
She did exactly as she was told.


About or around a certain figure.
She reads approximately two books a week.


Identically or without difference.
The twins look exactly alike.


Almost exact or correct
The approximate time of the accident.


In an exact manner; accurately.


Very similar; closely resembling
Sketched an approximate likeness of the suspect.


In all respects; just
Do exactly as you please.


Is "exactly" appropriate for estimates?

No, it's used for precise and accurate information.

How does "approximately" affect the meaning of a sentence?

It introduces a sense of estimation or approximation.

Can "approximately" be used in scientific contexts?

Yes, when precise data isn't available or needed.

Can "exactly" be used to emphasize agreement?

Yes, it can emphasize strong agreement or confirmation.

Is "approximately" suitable for legal documents?

Generally, no, as legal documents require precision.

Is "exactly" common in casual conversations?

It's used, but less common than in formal or precise contexts.

What does "exactly" convey in a statement?

It conveys precision and accuracy in information.

Can "approximately" be used for exact numbers?

No, it implies a degree of estimation or inaccuracy.

Does "approximately" suggest a certain level of uncertainty?

Yes, it acknowledges a margin of error or uncertainty.

Does "approximately" always mean the same as "about"?

In many contexts, yes, but "about" can be less formal.

Can "exactly" be used to stress accuracy in instructions?

Yes, it indicates that instructions should be followed precisely.

Is "approximately" useful in forecasting?

Yes, as forecasts often involve a degree of estimation.

Does "approximately" imply a large or small range?

It depends on context, but usually a small, reasonable range.

Does "exactly" imply no room for error?

Yes, it suggests there is no tolerance for deviation.

Is "exactly" suitable for describing feelings or opinions?

It can be used, but feelings and opinions are often subjective.

Can "exactly" be used in mathematical proofs?

Yes, it's essential for stating precise mathematical facts.

Is "approximately" more common in everyday language?

Yes, as everyday situations often involve estimates.

Can "approximately" be used in financial reports?

Yes, for estimated or rounded figures.

Can "exactly" be used interchangeably with "precisely"?

Yes, they are often synonyms in terms of precision.

Does "exactly" enhance the credibility of information?

Yes, when used correctly, it can enhance precision and trustworthiness.
About Author
Written 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.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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