'180 Degrees' or '360 Degrees'? What's the Difference?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on February 17, 2023

In English, ‘180 degrees' and ‘360 degrees' are terms often used to describe a change. But they are often confused, although they have opposite meanings. Read on to discover what each one means and how to use them.

Both references are to the mathematics of angles, which we'll explain below. But in short:

  • A ‘180 degree' is a change in the opposite direction.
  • A ‘360 degree' means a return to the beginning.

What's the Difference Between '180 Degrees' or '360 Degrees'?

On the surface, this may appear to be a geometry question, and on the surface, it is. But it also has a meaning in everyday English.

It is often said that someone has done a '180' or a '360', which refers to a change in behavior. It's a common idiom. A review of your mathematics knowledge is required to understand what the saying means.

  • A circle has 360 degrees, so a 180-degree change only goes halfway through the circle. You could think of the idiom as suggesting that the halfway trip around the circle is made backward. Because what the saying means is that you've had a change of mind or behavior that reflects the total opposite of what you believed before.
  • A 360-degree change, on the other hand, reflects a return to the original point, just like a circle would return to its original point after a 360-degree rotation.

Sometimes, these two sayings are also used literally.

For example, you could use this saying for boarders:

  • in snowboarding or skateboarding, you could perform a '180' or '360', which would refer to a trick where you jump, grab onto your board, and rotate your body the appropriate amount before landing.

Of course, you could also use both terms in the mathematical sense to refer to an angle, shape, or panoramic view, for example.

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce '180 Degrees' or '360 Degrees''

The correct saying is 'a 180-degree change' or ‘360 degree change'. But sometimes you might just say 'a 180' or 'a 360', with the degree bit implied.

The word 'degree' rhymes with 'brie,' 'knee,' or 'flee,' It's pronounced:

[ dih-gree ]

Or, according to the International Phonetics Alphabet, like this:

/ dɪˈgri /

How to Use ‘'180 Degrees' or '360 Degrees'

It's time to look at some examples of these two idioms used in a sentence, so you can better understand how to use them in context. So here goes.

The 360-degree panoramic view of the city on the London Eye made my day.

Well, this is a surprise! You've done a complete 180 and reverted back to the views you used to have.

He threw himself into an impressive 180-degree rotation.

We've drifted apart since he did a 180 and completely changed the way he behaves.

A circle has a 360-degree angle.

Concluding Thoughts

So now you know the difference between 180 and 360 degrees. Let's summarize:

  • 180 degrees is a half-circle
  • 360 degrees is a full-circle
  • To do a 180-degree shift is to change your mind completely
  • To do a 360-degree shift is to return to the point where you were before

If you found this article helpful and want to learn about more confusing words, visit our blog.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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