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Each of a set of finite differences calculated by subtracting a previous value of a function f (x) from the present value when the argument x is varied by a small negative amount; frequently attributive; compare forward difference , central difference .

In symbolic terms, a backward difference ∇ₕ = f(x) − f(x − h), in contrast to a forward difference, where ∆ₕ = f(x + h) − f(x).

Early 20th century; earliest use found in Annals of Mathematics.

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