1 Chart That Explains Why People Are Wrong About Venn Diagrams

Pedantry level: infinite.

1. Most things people call Venn diagrams are not Venn diagrams.

Tom Phillips/BuzzFeed

Lots of them are actually Euler diagrams. A Venn diagram has to show all possible logical relationships between sets, even if they’re not things that exist; an Euler diagram doesn’t.

2. If you want some added explanation, here are more charts than promised in the headline.

Tom Phillips/BuzzFeed

Venn diagrams are (roughly) a very specific type of Euler diagram. For example, a Venn diagram has to show the overlap between two sets, even if there’s nothing in that overlap (shown by shading it in black, as above).

3. While a Euler diagram can just show that they don’t overlap:

Tom Phillips/BuzzFeed

Venn diagrams also have to show every part of every set overlapping with every other at some point, which makes them really messy compared to Euler diagrams.

Tom Phillips/BuzzFeed/ openclipart.org

5. And of course some things described as “Venn diagrams” aren’t even Euler diagrams. They’re just… circles.

Tom Phillips/BuzzFeed
Tom Phillips/BuzzFeed

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Tom Phillips is the UK editorial director for BuzzFeed and is based in London.
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