# Bar Chart vs. Histogram: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 18, 2023
A bar chart displays categorical data with rectangular bars of heights or lengths proportional to the values they represent, while a histogram represents the frequency distribution of numerical data.

## Key Differences

A bar chart represents categorical data using bars of varying heights or lengths. Each bar signifies a category and its size reflects its value. Conversely, a histogram displays the frequency distribution of numerical data. It groups data points into ranges, and each bar's height indicates the number of data points in that range.
Bar charts are ideal for comparing discrete categories or groups. For example, sales by product type or preferences among different age groups. Histograms, on the other hand, are used for continuous data, showing how many data points fall within each range, like age distribution in a population.
In bar charts, the x-axis typically shows categories and the y-axis represents values. Bars can be vertical or horizontal. In histograms, the x-axis represents bins or intervals into which the data points are grouped, and the y-axis shows frequency or count of data points in each bin.
Bar charts have spaces between bars to emphasize that each bar represents a distinct category. In contrast, histograms have no gaps between bars (unless there's no data in a bin), as they depict the distribution of a variable over a continuous interval.
Bar charts are used to compare different groups or to track changes over time for different categories. They make it easy to compare categories visually. Histograms are used for understanding the distribution of a variable, such as identifying skewness, peaks, or outliers in the data.

## Comparison Chart

Categorical
Numerical

### Purpose

Comparison of categories or groups
Displaying frequency distribution

### Axis Representation

Categories on one axis, values on the other
Data ranges (bins) on one axis, frequency on the other

### Bar Arrangement

Spaces between bars
Bars touch each other

### Interpretation

Identifies trends or differences between categories
Shows distribution pattern of a dataset

## Bar Chart and Histogram Definitions

#### Bar Chart

A representation of data where each category is denoted by a bar, whose size is indicative of its numerical value.
The bar chart showed the population growth over the last decade for different cities.

#### Histogram

A chart illustrating the frequency distribution of a set of continuous data.
The histogram showed a bell-shaped curve, suggesting a normal distribution of the data.

#### Bar Chart

A graphical representation using bars of varying lengths to compare different categories.
The bar chart clearly showed that sales of Product A were twice as high as Product B.

#### Histogram

A graphical display of data using bars to show the frequency of numerical data.
The histogram indicated most students scored between 70 and 80 in the exam.

#### Bar Chart

A visual tool used to display and compare the quantity, frequency, or other measures for different categories.
The bar chart comparing monthly rainfall made it easy to see which month was the wettest.

#### Histogram

A representation of data where the frequency of variables is depicted by the height of the bars.
The histogram displayed a skewed distribution, with most values clustered at the lower end.

#### Bar Chart

A method of showing categorical data using rectangular bars with heights or lengths corresponding to the values they represent.
The company's annual performance was depicted in a bar chart, highlighting increased profits.

#### Histogram

A type of bar chart that represents the distribution of continuous data.
A histogram of age distribution in the survey highlighted a majority of participants were in their 30s.

#### Bar Chart

A chart with rectangular bars where the length of the bar is proportional to the value of the variable.
In the bar chart, longer bars indicated higher expenses in each department.

#### Histogram

A method to depict the frequency of occurrence of data points in successive numerical intervals.
The histogram of daily temperatures helped in understanding the climate pattern.

#### Histogram

A bar graph of a frequency distribution in which one axis lists each unique value (or range of continuous values) in a set of data, and the area of each bar represents the frequency (or relative frequency) of that value (or range of continuous values).

#### Histogram

(statistics) A graphical display of numerical data in the form of upright bars, with the area of each bar representing frequency.

#### Histogram

(transitive) To represent (data) as a histogram.

#### Histogram

A bar chart representing a frequency distribution; heights of the bars represent observed frequencies

## FAQs

#### When should I use a bar chart?

Use a bar chart when comparing categorical data like sales by product or survey responses by category.

#### What does a histogram show?

A histogram shows how data is distributed across different ranges or bins, indicating patterns like skewness or central tendency.

#### How is a histogram different from a bar chart?

A histogram represents the frequency distribution of numerical data without gaps between bars, while a bar chart compares categories with gaps between bars.

#### What is a bar chart?

A visual representation using bars to compare different categories or groups, with each bar’s length or height proportional to the value it represents.

#### Can histograms handle large data sets?

Yes, histograms are particularly useful for large data sets to understand distribution patterns.

#### How do you determine the number of bins in a histogram?

The number of bins can be determined based on data spread, data size, or using statistical formulas.

#### Can a bar chart show trends over time?

Yes, a bar chart can effectively show trends over time for different categories.

#### Are the bars in a histogram always of the same width?

Typically, yes. However, histograms can have variable bin widths if needed to better represent the data.

#### What types of data are best for bar charts?

Categorical or nominal data, like types of fruit in a fruit salad or different brands of cars.

#### Do bar charts have a specific orientation?

Bar charts can be horizontal or vertical, depending on the data and the desired presentation.

#### Why don't histograms have gaps between bars?

Gaps are absent in histograms to emphasize the continuous nature of the data they represent.

#### What is the key visual element of a histogram?

The key element is the series of adjacent bars that represent the frequency of data points in each range.

#### Is color important in bar charts?

Color can enhance the readability and differentiation of categories in bar charts.

#### Is it possible to have too many bars in a bar chart?

Yes, too many bars can make a bar chart cluttered and difficult to interpret.

#### Can bar charts be used for part-to-whole relationships?

Yes, particularly stacked bar charts are effective for showing part-to-whole relationships.

#### Can histograms be skewed?

Yes, the shape of a histogram can indicate skewness in the data.

#### Why is bin size important in histograms?

The bin size can affect the interpretation of data, as too large or too small bins can obscure data patterns.

#### Does a histogram always represent probability distributions?

Not always, but it is commonly used to approximate the underlying probability distribution of the data.

#### What is an example of a bar chart in everyday use?

A bar chart displaying the popularity of different social media platforms among teenagers.

#### Can a bar chart include multiple data series?

Yes, bar charts can include multiple series, often using different colors for comparison.