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Significant vs Important


  • ‘Significant’ (adj) means ‘sufficiently great or important to be worthy of attention; noteworthy’.
  • ‘Important’ (adj) means ‘of great significance or value; having great effect or influence’.

What’s the difference between ‘significant’ and ‘important’?

These two words have very similar meanings, but should be used carefully in academic writing.

  • While ‘important’ can be used in a variety of contexts to stress the great effect or influence of something, ‘significant’ is very often used in a statistical context.
  • The connotation of ‘significant’ is that something is sufficiently noteworthy to have crossed a threshold (e.g. in the statistical sense, that threshold is a probability value).
  • Not all academic uses of ‘significant’ relate to statistics. In some cases, the use of the word can be ambiguous, so is best avoided when not reporting statistics. ‘Important’ is a more versatile adjective (think also ‘major’, ‘crucial’, ‘determining’, etc), but it does not denote statistical significance.

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How they’re used

Example sentences with ‘significant’

  • This could have a significant effect on the outcome of the election.
  • Post-test results were not statistically significant.

Example sentences with ‘important’

  • The study reveals important differences in costs and outcomes.
  • The difference in quality of care was important.