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Generic vs. Specific: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on February 26, 2024
Generic refers to a general class or group, while specific pertains to a particular item or detail within that group.
Generic vs. Specific

Key Differences

Generic is a term used to describe a broad category or class that is not specific to any one individual item but rather describes a typical example within a group. It speaks to the common characteristics shared by items within the group. Specific, on the other hand, is a term that identifies a particular item or detail that is distinct from others in its class, often pinpointing a unique aspect or attribute.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023
When we talk about something generic, we are referring to the general form or nature of a thing without any particular qualities that would single it out from other members of its class. For instance, a generic product in a supermarket may represent a standard version of a product, not differentiated by brand or special features. Specific, conversely, would refer to a unique brand or a product that has a particular set of characteristics that set it apart from other similar products.
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In the context of information or instructions, generic information applies to a wide range of scenarios and is not tailored to any particular case. It is the kind of information that is widely applicable. Specific information is detailed and relevant to one single case or scenario, designed to apply directly to that situation without ambiguity.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023
In communication, using generic terms can sometimes lead to misunderstandings if the listener or reader is expecting more detailed information. It is therefore important to recognize when to be generic, giving a broad overview, and when to be specific, providing detailed and precise information. For example, in medical advice, a generic suggestion could apply to anyone, while specific advice would be tailored to an individual’s unique health profile.
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Comparison Chart

Definition

Relating to a general group or class.
Relating to a particular item or detail.
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Example

Medications not branded, but with the same formula.
A medication with a brand name.
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Instructions

Broad guidelines applicable to many situations.
Detailed guidelines applicable to a specific case.
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Information

General data that applies to a broad category.
Detailed information pertinent to a particular case.
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Products

Non-branded items that serve a general purpose.
Branded items with unique features or qualities.
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Generic and Specific Definitions

Generic

Typical of a class; not specific.
She prefers generic examples in her lectures.
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Specific

Detailed or explicit.
He gave me specific feedback on my work.
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Generic

Applicable to an entire group or class.
The doctor gave me generic health advice.
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Specific

Explicitly set forth; definite
Wrote specific instructions.
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Oct 19, 2023

Generic

Vague or not detailed.
His instructions were too generic to follow.
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Specific

Clear or detailed in communicating
Be specific when telling us what you need.
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Generic

Not trademarked or branded.
I bought generic cereal instead of the leading brand.
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Specific

Limited, distinctive, or unique
Problems specific to small colleges.
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Generic

Broad in scope or effect.
Generic policies may not address all individual needs.
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Specific

Intended for, applying to, or acting on a particular thing
A specific remedy for warts.
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Oct 19, 2023

Generic

Relating to or descriptive of an entire group or class
Cancer is a generic term for a group of diseases in which cells proliferate wildly.
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Oct 19, 2023

Specific

Concerned particularly with the subject specified. Often used in combination
"age-specific voting patterns" (A. Dianne Schmidley).
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Oct 19, 2023

Generic

Lacking specificity; general
Made some generic remarks about how to save for retirement.
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Specific

Relating to, characterizing, or distinguishing a species
A specific name.
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Generic

(Biology) Of or relating to a genus.
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Specific

Designating a disease produced by a particular microorganism or condition.
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Generic

Relating to or being a product that is sold or distributed without any brand name or without a widely known brand name, especially as a discount alternative to a name-brand product
Generic soap.
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Specific

Having a remedial influence or effect on a particular disease.
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Generic

Relating to or being the official nonproprietary name of a drug, under which it is licensed and identified by the manufacturer.
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Specific

(Immunology) Having an affinity limited to a particular antibody or antigen.
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Generic

(Grammar) Specifying neither masculine nor feminine gender
Generic nouns like waitperson and executive.
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Specific

Designating a customs charge levied on merchandise by unit or weight rather than according to value.
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Oct 19, 2023

Generic

A product or substance sold under or identified by a generic name.
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Specific

Designating a commodity rate applicable to the transportation of a single commodity between named points.
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Generic

A wine that is a blend of several grape varieties and does not carry the name of any specific grape.
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Specific

Something particularly fitted to a use or purpose.
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Generic

Very comprehensive; pertaining or appropriate to large classes or groups (genera) as opposed to specific instances.
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Oct 19, 2023

Specific

A remedy intended for a particular ailment or disorder.
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Generic

(taxonomy) Pertaining to genera of life instead of particular species thereof.
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Specific

A distinguishing quality or attribute.
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Generic

Lacking in precision, often in an evasive fashion; vague; imprecise
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Specific

Specifics Distinct items or details; particulars.
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Oct 19, 2023

Generic

(of a product or drug) not having a brand name; nonproprietary in design or contents; fungible with the rest of its class.
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Oct 19, 2023

Specific

Explicit or definite.
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Generic

Relating to gender.
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Specific

Pertaining to a species, as a taxon or taxa at the rank of species.
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Generic

(grammar) specifying neither masculine nor feminine; epicene; unisex.
Words like salesperson and firefighter are generic.
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Specific

Special, distinctive or unique.
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Generic

Written so as to operate on any data type, the type required being passed as a parameter.
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Specific

Intended for, or applying to, a particular thing.
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Generic

Having coordinates that are algebraically independent over the base field.
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Specific

Serving to identify a particular thing (often a disease or condition), with little risk of mistaking something else for it.
A highly specific test, specific and nonspecific symptoms
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Generic

A product sold under a generic name.
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Specific

Being a remedy for a particular disease on a deeper level, rather than just masking the symptoms
Quinine is a specific medicine in cases of malaria.
Any improvement in secondary sciatica is probably due to the analgesic action of the sodium salicylate, but in primary sciatica, in all likelihood “rheumatic,” the effect of the sodium salicylate appears to be specific rather than symptomatic.
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Oct 19, 2023

Generic

A wine that is a blend of several wines, or made from a blend of several grape varieties.
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Oct 19, 2023

Specific

(immunology) limited to a particular antibody or antigen.
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Oct 19, 2023

Generic

(grammar) A term that specifies neither male nor female.
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Oct 19, 2023

Specific

(physics) of a value divided by mass (e.g. specific orbital energy)
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Oct 19, 2023

Generic

Pertaining to a genus or kind; relating to a genus, as distinct from a species, or from another genus; as, a generic description; a generic difference; a generic name.
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Oct 19, 2023

Specific

(physics) similarly referring to a value divided by any measure which acts to standardize it (e.g. thrust specific fuel consumption, referring to fuel consumption divided by thrust)
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Oct 19, 2023

Generic

Very comprehensive; pertaining or appropriate to large classes or their characteristics; - opposed to specific.
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Oct 19, 2023

Specific

(physics) a measure compared with a standard reference value by division, to produce a ratio without unit or dimension (e.g. specific refractive index is a pure number, and is relative to that of air)
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Generic

Not protected by trademark; - used especially of the names of medications; as, a generic drug; the generic name of Rogaine is minoxidil.
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Specific

A distinguishing attribute or quality.
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Generic

Relating to or common to or descriptive of all members of a genus;
The generic name
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Specific

A remedy for a specific disease or condition.
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Generic

(of drugs) not protected by trademark;
`Acetaminophen' is the generic form of the proprietary drug `Tylenol'
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Specific

Specification
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Generic

Applicable to an entire class or group;
Is there a generic Asian mind?
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Oct 19, 2023

Specific

(in the plural) The details; particulars.
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Oct 19, 2023

Specific

Of or pertaining to a species; characterizing or constituting a species; possessing the peculiar property or properties of a thing which constitute its species, and distinguish it from other things; as, the specific form of an animal or a plant; the specific qualities of a drug; the specific distinction between virtue and vice.
Specific difference is that primary attribute which distinguishes each species from one another.
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Oct 19, 2023

Specific

Specifying; definite, or making definite; limited; precise; discriminating; as, a specific statement.
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Oct 19, 2023

Specific

Exerting a peculiar influence over any part of the body; preventing or curing disease by a peculiar adaptation, and not on general principles; as, quinine is a specific medicine in cases of malaria.
In fact, all medicines will be found specific in the perfection of the science.
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Oct 19, 2023

Specific

Anything having peculiar adaption to the purpose to which it is applied.
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Oct 19, 2023

Specific

A fact about some part (as opposed to general);
He always reasons from the particular to the general
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Oct 19, 2023

Specific

A medicine that has a mitigating effect on a specific disease;
Quinine is a specific for malaria
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Oct 19, 2023

Specific

(sometimes followed by `to') applying to or characterized by or distinguishing something particular or special or unique;
Rules with specific application
Demands specific to the job
A specific and detailed account of the accident
Nonspecific enteritis
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Oct 19, 2023

Specific

Stated explicitly or in detail;
Needed a specific amount
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Specific

Relating to or distinguishing or constituting a taxonomic species;
Specific characters
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Specific

Being or affecting a disease produced by a particular microorganism or condition; used also of stains or dyes used in making microscope slides;
Quinine is highly specific for malaria
A specific remedy
A specific stain is one having a specific affinity for particular structural elements
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Oct 19, 2023

Specific

Clearly defined or identified.
I need specific instructions to assemble the furniture.
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Nov 08, 2023

Specific

Precise or particular.
The recipe calls for a specific brand of butter.
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Specific

Restricted to one thing or area.
The coupon is only specific to one store location.
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

What does generic mean?

It means relating to a general group without specifics.
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Nov 08, 2023

Is a generic choice always cheaper?

Often, but not always; it typically depends on the product.
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Nov 08, 2023

Can I use specific when I mean generic?

No, because specific implies detail and uniqueness.
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Nov 08, 2023

Can generic be as good as specific?

Yes, generic can be equally effective as specific in many cases.
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Nov 08, 2023

Is generic branding common?

Yes, particularly in products like pharmaceuticals.
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Nov 08, 2023

How do I know if I need a specific or generic solution?

It depends on whether your needs are general or particular.
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Nov 08, 2023

What is a specific example?

It's an example that is detailed and unique to a particular case.
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Can specific details improve communication?

Yes, they can clarify and tailor the message.
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Why might a doctor prescribe a generic drug?

It's typically less expensive and equally effective.
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Can a generic approach work in all situations?

Not always, as some situations require specificity.
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Nov 08, 2023

When should I avoid generic terms?

When precise and detailed information is required.
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Nov 08, 2023

Are generic drugs as safe as specific brands?

Yes, they must meet the same FDA standards.
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Nov 08, 2023

What's a specific instruction?

An instruction that is clear, detailed, and unambiguous.
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Are specific products more expensive?

They can be, due to branding or unique features.
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Nov 08, 2023

Why is specificity important in legal documents?

It minimizes ambiguity and potential misinterpretation.
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Nov 08, 2023

Is being specific always better?

It depends on context; sometimes a general view is more useful.
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Nov 08, 2023

Can I request a specific service?

Yes, you can request tailored services.
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Nov 08, 2023

Can a generic label become specific?

Not typically; specific refers to unique characteristics.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 08, 2023

How do I make my writing more specific?

Use detailed descriptions and avoid generalities.
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Nov 08, 2023

What makes a generic term generic?

Its broad application and lack of unique features.
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Nov 08, 2023

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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
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Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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