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Area vs. Surface Area: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on November 16, 2023
"Area" refers to the space inside a shape's boundary, while "Surface Area" pertains to the total area covering a 3D object's surface.

Key Differences

"Area" typically describes the space that a two-dimensional shape occupies on a flat plane. It quantifies how much space is enclosed within the boundaries of figures like squares, circles, and triangles. On the contrary, "Surface Area" refers to the combined area of all external faces or surfaces of a three-dimensional object. Think of it as wrapping an object with paper and then measuring the paper's area.
Considering "Area", it's a foundational concept in geometry. When you're examining flat shapes, the term to use is "Area". For example, when you calculate the area of a rectangle, you multiply its length by its width. "Surface Area", however, involves a bit more complexity. Objects like cubes, cylinders, and spheres have multiple surfaces. Therefore, finding the "Surface Area" requires summing the areas of all these individual surfaces.
While "Area" is predominantly used in the context of two-dimensional shapes, it can also be applied more generally, like to describe a piece of land. "Surface Area", however, is strictly a three-dimensional concept. It quantifies how much external space an object occupies, giving insight into matters like how much material might be needed to coat or wrap it.
Lastly, understanding the distinction is crucial in various applications. "Area" might be used in contexts like determining how much paint is needed for a flat wall, while "Surface Area" is used to determine how much paint is needed for a three-dimensional statue.

Comparison Chart


Pertains to two-dimensional shapes
Pertains to three-dimensional objects


Flat shapes or land
External coverage of objects


Generally simpler calculations
May require summing multiple individual surfaces


Geometry, land measurement
Geometry, material coverage


Squares, circles, triangles
Cubes, cylinders, spheres

Area and Surface Area Definitions


Area quantifies the extent of a two-dimensional surface.
The area of the park is vast and expansive.

Surface Area

Surface Area helps determine material required for wrapping or coating an object.
The box's surface area will indicate how much wrapping paper is needed.


Area is the space covered by a figure on a plane.
This field has an area of 500 acres.

Surface Area

Surface Area is the sum of the areas of all faces of a 3D figure.
The surface area of a cylinder considers both its curved side and its two flat ends.


Area is the amount of space enclosed within a shape's boundaries.
The area of this square is 16 square units.

Surface Area

Surface Area quantifies the external coverage of three-dimensional shapes.
To paint this sculpture, we need to know its surface area.


Area can describe the size of a specific region or section.
The picnic area is located by the lake.

Surface Area

Surface Area represents the combined measurement of all external surfaces of an object.
The surface area of a sphere is calculated using its radius.


A roughly bounded part of the space on a surface; a region:a farming area; the New York area.

Surface Area

Surface Area measures the total area that covers a 3D object.
The surface area of a cube includes all six of its faces.


A surface, especially an open, unoccupied piece of ground:a landing area; a playing area.


A distinct part or section, as of a building, set aside for a specific function:a storage area in the basement.


A division of experience, activity, or knowledge; a field:studies in the area of finance; a job in the health-care area.


An open, sunken space next to a building; an areaway.


Abbr. AThe extent of a planar region or of the surface of a solid measured in square units.


(mathematics) A measure of the extent of a surface; it is measured in square units.


A particular geographic region.


Any particular extent of surface, especially an empty or unused extent.
The photo is a little dark in that area.


The extent, scope, or range of an object or concept.
The plans are a bit vague in that area.


(British) An open space, below ground level, giving access to the basement of a house, and typically separated from the pavement by railings.


(soccer) Penalty box; penalty area.


(slang) Genitals.


Any plane surface, as of the floor of a room or church, or of the ground within an inclosure; an open space in a building.
The Alban lake . . . looks like the area of some vast amphitheater.


The inclosed space on which a building stands.


The sunken space or court, giving ingress and affording light to the basement of a building.


An extent of surface; a tract of the earth's surface; a region; as, vast uncultivated areas.


The superficial contents of any figure; the surface included within any given lines; superficial extent; as, the area of a square or a triangle.


A spot or small marked space; as, the germinative area.


Extent; scope; range; as, a wide area of thought.
The largest area of human history and man's common nature.


A particular geographical region of indefinite boundary (usually serving some special purpose or distinguished by its people or culture or geography);
It was a mountainous area
Bible country


A particular environment or walk of life;
His social sphere is limited
It was a closed area of employment
He's out of my orbit


A subject of study;
It was his area of specialization
Areas of interest include...


A part of a structure having some specific characteristic or function;
The spacious cooking area provided plenty of room for servants


A part of an animal that has a special function or is supplied by a given artery or nerve;
In the abdominal region


The extent of a 2-dimensional surface enclosed within a boundary;
The area of a rectangle
It was about 500 square feet in area


Area represents the measure of a flat surface.
The floor area needs to be measured for carpeting.


Are the formulas for "Area" and "Surface Area" similar?

Not necessarily. Formulas vary based on shape and dimension.

Why is "Surface Area" important?

It helps determine the amount of material needed to coat, wrap, or cover a 3D object.

How does "Surface Area" differ from "Area"?

Surface Area pertains to the total area covering a 3D object's surface, while Area relates to space inside a 2D shape.

How many surfaces does "Surface Area" consider?

It considers all external surfaces of a 3D object.

What is "Area" in geometry?

Area refers to the amount of space enclosed within a two-dimensional shape's boundaries.

Can "Area" refer to land or territory?

Yes, "Area" can describe a region's size or extent, such as land.

Is "Surface Area" always larger than "Area"?

Not necessarily. It depends on the specific shapes or objects being compared.

Is "Area" exclusive to geometry?

No, "Area" can refer to any defined space or region, even outside geometry.

Can "Area" be used for three-dimensional objects?

Typically, no. "Area" refers to 2D shapes; "Surface Area" is for 3D objects.

Do both "Area" and "Surface Area" use the same units?

Yes, both are typically measured in square units, like square inches or square meters.

Why might someone need to know the "Area" of a shape?

For purposes like calculating material requirements, understanding size, or spatial planning.

Is calculating "Area" simpler than "Surface Area"?

Generally, yes, as "Area" pertains to flat, 2D shapes, while "Surface Area" involves 3D objects.

"Area" or "Surface Area"?

Typically, Surface Area, as it may involve summing areas of multiple surfaces.

Can a flat shape have a "Surface Area"?

No, flat shapes have "Area". "Surface Area" is specific to 3D objects.

Can "Surface Area" affect an object's properties?

Yes, like in heat transfer, where objects with larger surface areas can dissipate heat faster.

Why is understanding the difference between "Area" and "Surface Area" crucial?

It ensures accurate measurements and understanding, especially in applications like construction, art, and science.

What's an example of when "Surface Area" is crucial?

When determining how much paint is needed for a statue.

Do circles have "Surface Area"?

No, circles are 2D and have an "Area". Spheres, which are 3D, have a "Surface Area".

Why is "Area" significant in real estate?

It determines the size or extent of land or property, impacting value and use.
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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