# Rate vs. Speed: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on October 3, 2023
Rate is a quantity measured in relation to another quantity; Speed is the distance traveled per unit of time.

## Key Differences

The term “rate” refers to a measured quantity in relation to another measured quantity, typically represented as a fraction or a ratio. It is a comparative measure that assesses the frequency or magnitude of an event or occurrence over a specified interval. In contrast, “speed” represents the distance traveled or amount of progress made per unit of time, commonly associated with motion and measured in units like meters per second or miles per hour.
Rate is fundamentally diverse, applicable across a variety of contexts and domains, including finance, physics, and biology, illustrating its versatility. It helps in comprehending proportional relationships between different quantities. Speed, however, predominantly relates to the realm of physics, essentially providing insights into the rapidity or velocity of moving objects, focusing on the scalar quantity that incorporates distance and time.
When analyzing rate, it’s crucial to comprehend that it is a comprehensive term, embodying multiple aspects, such as growth rate, interest rate, and exchange rate, each delineating distinct comparative relationships. Speed, on the flip side, is straightforward, addressing the concept of how fast an object moves, and it is instrumental in understanding the kinematics of objects, shedding light on their motion patterns.
In mathematical representations, rate can be derived through various computations, depending on the quantities compared, and it can encompass a range of units or may even be unitless, emphasizing its adaptability. Speed is mathematically obtained by dividing the distance by the time and retains consistent units of distance over time, underscoring its specificity in denoting motion.
Conclusively, rate is a versatile and comprehensive term depicting the relationship between different quantities, adapting to various contexts. Speed, meanwhile, is a focused and concise concept dedicated to representing the velocity of objects, fundamental to motion interpretation.

## Comparison Chart

### Definition

Quantity measured in relation to another quantity.
Distance traveled per unit of time.

### Domain

Diverse; applies to finance, physics, biology, etc.
Predominantly physics; relates to motion.

### Representation

Can be a fraction, ratio, or percentage.
Usually represented with units of distance over time.

### Contextual Diversity

Extremely versatile; context-dependent.
More focused and specific to movement.

### Unit Consistency

Can have varied units or be unitless, depending on the quantities compared.
Has consistent units of distance over time.

## Rate and Speed Definitions

#### Rate

A measure of a quantity per unit of another quantity.
The rate of water flow was 5 liters per minute.

#### Speed

The magnitude of velocity; distance traveled over time.
The speed of light is approximately 299,792 kilometers per second.

#### Rate

A fixed ratio between two things.
The exchange rate between the dollar and the euro fluctuates.

#### Speed

The transmission gear ratio in a vehicle.
The vehicle has a 6-speed manual transmission.

#### Rate

A standard or measure used in pricing.
The interest rate on the loan was 5% per annum.

#### Speed

Distance traveled divided by the time of travel.

#### Rate

A quantity measured with respect to another measured quantity
A rate of speed of 60 miles an hour.

#### Speed

The limit of this quotient as the time of travel becomes vanishingly small; the first derivative of distance with respect to time.

#### Rate

A measure of a part with respect to a whole; a proportion
The mortality rate.
A tax rate.

#### Speed

The magnitude of a velocity.

#### Rate

The cost per unit of a commodity or service
Postal rates.

#### Speed

Swiftness of action
He wrote the first chapter with great speed.

#### Rate

A charge or payment calculated in relation to a particular sum or quantity
Interest rates.

#### Speed

The act of moving rapidly
Finished the race in a burst of speed.

#### Rate

Level of quality.

#### Speed

The state of being in rapid motion; rapidity
The river's speed made a rescue difficult.

#### Rate

Often rates Chiefly British A locally assessed property tax.

#### Speed

A transmission gear or set of gears in a motor vehicle
What speed is the car in now?.

#### Rate

To place in a particular class, rank, or grade
Rated the film PG13.
Rated the bonds at junk level.

#### Speed

A numerical expression of the sensitivity of a photographic film, plate, or paper to light.

#### Rate

To specify the performance limits of, especially according to a standard scale
This fuse is rated at 50 amperes. The fishing line is rated for 30 pounds.

#### Speed

The capacity of a lens to accumulate light at an appropriate aperture.

#### Rate

To regard or consider as having a certain value
Rated the movie excellent.
Rated him a fine cook.

#### Speed

The length of time required or permitted for a camera shutter to open and admit light.

#### Rate

Chiefly British To value for purposes of taxation.

#### Speed

(Slang) A stimulant drug, especially amphetamine or methamphetamine.

#### Rate

To set a rate for (goods to be shipped).

#### Speed

(Slang) One that suits or appeals to a person's inclinations, skills, or character
Living in a large city is not my speed.

#### Rate

(Informal) To merit or deserve
People that rate special treatment.
An idea that rates attention.

#### Speed

(Archaic) Prosperity; luck.

#### Rate

To be ranked in a particular class
A wine that rates higher than any other.

#### Speed

To go, move, or proceed quickly
Sped to the rescue.

#### Rate

(Informal) To have status, importance, or influence
Tea-flavored ice cream doesn't rate highly in my book.

#### Speed

To drive at a speed exceeding a legal limit
Was speeding on the freeway.

To berate.

#### Speed

To pass quickly
The days sped by. The months have sped along.

#### Rate

To express reproof.

#### Speed

To move, work, or happen at a faster rate; accelerate
His pulse speeded up.

#### Rate

(obsolete) The worth of something; value.

#### Speed

(Slang) To be under the influence of a stimulant drug.

#### Rate

The proportional relationship between one amount, value etc. and another.
At the height of his powers, he was producing pictures at the rate of four a year.

#### Speed

To prove successful; prosper.

#### Rate

Speed.
The car was speeding down here at a hell of a rate.

#### Speed

To get along in a specified manner; fare.

#### Rate

The relative speed of change or progress.
The rate of production at the factory is skyrocketing.

#### Speed

To cause to move or proceed quickly; hasten
No wind to speed the boat.

#### Rate

The price of (an individual) thing; cost.
He asked quite a rate to take me to the airport.

#### Speed

To increase the speed or rate of; accelerate. Often used with up
Speed up a car.
Sped up production.

#### Rate

A set price or charge for all examples of a given case, commodity, service etc.
Postal rates here are low.

#### Speed

To further, promote, or expedite (a legal action, for example).

#### Rate

A wage calculated in relation to a unit of time.
We pay an hourly rate of between \$10 – \$15 per hour depending on qualifications and experience.

#### Speed

(Archaic) To help to succeed or prosper; aid.

#### Rate

Any of various taxes, especially those levied by a local authority.
I hardly have enough left every month to pay the rates.

#### Speed

The state of moving quickly or the capacity for rapid motion.
How does Usain Bolt run at that speed?

#### Rate

(nautical) A class into which ships were assigned based on condition, size etc.; by extension, rank.
This textbook is first-rate.

#### Speed

The rate of motion or action, specifically the magnitude of the velocity; the rate distance is traversed in a given time.
Speed limits provide information to the drivers about the safe speed to travel in average conditions.

#### Rate

(obsolete) Established portion or measure; fixed allowance; ration.

#### Speed

(photography) The sensitivity to light of film, plates or sensor.

#### Rate

(obsolete) Order; arrangement.

#### Speed

(photography) The duration of exposure, the time during which a camera shutter is open (shutter speed).

#### Rate

(obsolete) Ratification; approval.

#### Speed

(photography) The largest size of the lens opening at which a lens can be used.

#### Rate

(horology) The gain or loss of a timepiece in a unit of time.
Daily rate; hourly rate; etc.

#### Speed

(photography) The ratio of the focal length to the diameter of a photographic objective.

#### Rate

(transitive) To assign or be assigned a particular rank or level.
She is rated fourth in the country.

#### Speed

Amphetamine or any amphetamine-based drug (especially methamphetamine) used as a stimulant, especially illegally.

#### Rate

(transitive) To evaluate or estimate the value of.
They rate his talents highly.

#### Speed

(archaic) Luck, success, prosperity.

#### Rate

(transitive) To consider or regard.
He rated this book brilliant.

#### Speed

(slang) Personal preference.
We could go to the shore next week, or somewhere else if that's not your speed.

#### Rate

(transitive) To deserve; to be worth.
The view here hardly rates a mention in the travel guide.

#### Speed

A third-order measure of derivative price sensitivity, expressed as the rate of change of gamma with respect to changes in the underlying asset price.

#### Rate

(transitive) To determine the limits of safe functioning for a machine or electrical device.
The transformer is rated at 10 watts.

#### Speed

(film) Called by the soundman when the recording equipment has reached running speed and is ready to go.

#### Rate

To evaluate a property's value for the purposes of local taxation.

#### Speed

To succeed; to prosper, be lucky.

#### Rate

To like; to think highly of.
The customers don't rate the new burgers.

#### Speed

To help someone, to give them fortune; to aid or favour.
God speed, until we meet again.

#### Rate

(intransitive) To have position (in a certain class).
She rates among the most excellent chefs in the world.
He rates as the best cyclist in the country.

#### Speed

(intransitive) To go fast.
The Ferrari was speeding along the road.

#### Rate

(intransitive) To have value or standing.
This last performance of hers didn't rate very high with the judges.

#### Speed

(intransitive) To exceed the speed limit.
Why do you speed when the road is so icy?

#### Rate

(transitive) To ratify.

#### Speed

(transitive) To increase the rate at which something occurs.

#### Rate

To ascertain the exact rate of the gain or loss of (a chronometer) as compared with true time.

#### Speed

To be under the influence of stimulant drugs, especially amphetamines.

#### Rate

(transitive) To berate, scold.

#### Speed

(obsolete) To be expedient.

#### Rate

To chide with vehemence; to scold; to censure violently; to berate.
Go, rate thy minions, proud, insulting boy!
Conscience is a check to beginners in sin, reclaiming them from it, and rating them for it.

#### Speed

(archaic) To hurry to destruction; to put an end to; to ruin.

#### Rate

To set a certain estimate on; to value at a certain price or degree.
To rate a man by the nature of his companions is a rule frequent indeed, but not infallible.
You seem not high enough your joys to rate.

#### Speed

(archaic) To wish success or good fortune to, in any undertaking, especially in setting out upon a journey.

#### Rate

To assess for the payment of a rate or tax.

#### Speed

To cause to make haste; to dispatch with celerity; to drive at full speed; hence, to hasten; to hurry.

#### Rate

To settle the relative scale, rank, position, amount, value, or quality of; as, to rate a ship; to rate a seaman; to rate a pension.

#### Speed

To hasten to a conclusion; to expedite.

To ratify.

#### Speed

Prosperity in an undertaking; favorable issue; success.
O Lord God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day.

#### Rate

To be set or considered in a class; to have rank; as, the ship rates as a ship of the line.

#### Speed

The act or state of moving swiftly; swiftness; velocity; rapidly; rate of motion; dispatch; as, the speed a horse or a vessel.
Speed, to describe whose swiftness number fails.

#### Rate

To make an estimate.

#### Speed

One who, or that which, causes or promotes speed or success.

#### Rate

Established portion or measure; fixed allowance.
The one right feeble through the evil rateOf food which in her duress she had found.

#### Speed

To go; to fare.
To warn him now he is too farre sped.

#### Rate

That which is established as a measure or criterion; degree; standard; rank; proportion; ratio; as, a slow rate of movement; rate of interest is the ratio of the interest to the principal, per annum.
Heretofore the rate and standard of wit was different from what it is nowadays.
In this did his holiness and godliness appear above the rate and pitch of other men's, in that he was so . . . merciful.
Many of the horse could not march at that rate, nor come up soon enough.

#### Speed

To experience in going; to have any condition, good or ill; to fare.
Ships heretofore in seas like fishes sped; The mightiest still upon the smallest fed.

#### Rate

Valuation; price fixed with relation to a standard; cost; charge; as, high or low rates of transportation.
They come at dear rates from Japan.

#### Speed

To fare well; to have success; to prosper.
Save London, and send true lawyers their meed!For whoso wants money with them shall not speed!
I told ye then he should prevail, and speedOn his bad errand.

#### Rate

A tax or sum assessed by authority on property for public use, according to its income or value; esp., in England, a local tax; as, parish rates; town rates.

#### Speed

To make haste; to move with celerity.
I have speeded hither with the very extremest inch of possibility.

#### Rate

Order; arrangement.
Thus sat they all around in seemly rate.

To be expedient.

#### Rate

Ratification; approval.

#### Speed

To cause to be successful, or to prosper; hence, to aid; to favor.
With rising gales that speed their happy flight.

#### Rate

The gain or loss of a timepiece in a unit of time; as, daily rate; hourly rate; etc.

#### Speed

To cause to make haste; to dispatch with celerity; to drive at full speed; hence, to hasten; to hurry.
He sped him thence home to his habitation.

#### Rate

The order or class to which a war vessel belongs, determined according to its size, armament, etc.; as, first rate, second rate, etc.

#### Speed

To hasten to a conclusion; to expedite.
Judicial acts . . . are sped in open court at the instance of one or both of the parties.

#### Rate

Amount of a charge or payment relative to some basis;
A 10-minute phone call at that rate would cost \$5

#### Speed

To hurry to destruction; to put an end to; to ruin; to undo.
A dire dilemma! either way I 'm sped.If foes, they write, if friends, they read, me dead.

#### Rate

A magnitude or frequency relative to a time unit;
They traveled at a rate of 55 miles per hour
The rate of change was faster than expected

#### Speed

To wish success or god fortune to, in any undertaking, especially in setting out upon a journey.
Welcome the coming, speed the parting guest.

#### Rate

The relative speed of progress or change;
He lived at a fast pace
He works at a great rate
The pace of events accelerated

#### Speed

Distance travelled per unit time

#### Rate

Assign a rank or rating to;
How would you rank these students?
The restaurant is rated highly in the food guide

#### Speed

A rate (usually rapid) at which something happens;
The project advanced with gratifying speed

#### Rate

Be worthy of or have a certain rating;
This bond rates highly

#### Speed

Changing location rapidly

#### Rate

Estimate the value of;
How would you rate his chances to become President?
Gold was rated highly among the Romans

#### Speed

The ratio of the focal length to the diameter of a (camera) lens system

#### Rate

The speed at which something happens over a particular period of time.
The rate of reaction depends on temperature.

#### Speed

A central nervous system stimulant that increases energy and decreases appetite; used to treat narcolepsy and some forms of depression

#### Rate

The relative frequency of occurrence of something.
The birth rate in the country has declined.

#### Speed

Step on it;
He rushed down the hall to receive his guests
The cars raced down the street

#### Speed

Move faster;
The car accelerated

#### Speed

Travel at an excessive or illegal velocity;
I got a ticket for speeding

#### Speed

Move very fast;
The runner zipped past us at breakneck speed

#### Speed

Cause to move faster;
He accelerated the car

#### Speed

The rate at which someone or something moves or operates.
The car has a top speed of 150 miles per hour.

#### Speed

The swift execution or performance of a task.
He cleaned the room with remarkable speed.

#### Speed

Quickness or agility in motion or action.
His speed in solving problems is noteworthy.

## FAQs

#### Can rate be unitless?

Yes, rate can be unitless, depending on the quantities being compared.

#### Can rate represent a fixed ratio?

Yes, rate can represent a fixed or defined ratio between two quantities.

#### Can rate and speed be used interchangeably?

Not usually; rate compares two different quantities, while speed is specifically distance over time.

#### Does speed always have consistent units?

Yes, speed consistently has units of distance over time.

#### Can speed represent quickness in performing tasks?

Yes, speed can also represent the swiftness in executing or performing tasks.

#### Is rate more versatile in terms of context?

Yes, rate can be applied in diverse contexts, including finance, physics, and biology.

#### Does rate play a crucial role in finance?

Absolutely, rate is pivotal in finance, representing interest, exchange, and growth rates.

#### Is speed a scalar quantity?

Yes, speed is a scalar quantity as it has magnitude but no specific direction.

#### Can rate be represented as a percentage?

Yes, depending on context, rate can be represented as a percentage.

#### Can speed be relative?

Yes, speed can be relative depending on the observer's state of motion.

#### Is speed solely related to motion?

Predominantly, speed relates to the rapidity or velocity of moving objects.

#### Is rate always a comparative measure?

Yes, rate is fundamentally a comparative measure relating one quantity to another.

#### Is the speed of light the ultimate speed limit?

According to current scientific understanding, yes, the speed of light is the ultimate speed limit in the universe.

#### Does speed require both distance and time for its computation?

Yes, speed is computed as the distance traveled per unit of time.

#### Can rate have different units in different contexts?

Yes, rate can have varying units or even be unitless depending on the context.