The Difference Between Macro and Micro

by Elizabeth Burns; Updated September 26, 2017
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The word “macro” derives from the Greek “macros,” which means large, while “micro” stems from the Greek word “micros,” which means small. Macro and micro, when prefixed to other words, such as microscope and macrocosm, indicate their meaning in relation to scale or function. Although the words have opposite meanings, they are often interconnected in interesting ways.

Scale

The word “macrocosm,” meaning the world, cosmos or universe, exemplifies macro’s grand scale. Microcosm, on the other hand, means a miniature model or world within the macrocosm. Human beings and societies are sometimes referred to as microcosms because they are a part of the macrocosm’s bigger picture. A village, for example, could be viewed as a microcosm of a country.

Micro Examples

Micro is often prefixed to words describing everyday objects and explaining their functions. Microscope, an instrument used to magnify small objects, and microprocessor, a small component that makes up the larger parts of a computer’s parts, are typical examples.

Macro Meanings

Macro, in keeping with its loftier connotations, more often refers to abstract principles or systems. Macroeconomics, for example, involves studying and analyzing economic systems and general financial trends as opposed to microeconomics, which focuses on an economy’s individual units, such as a particular firm or industry.

Relationship Between Micro and Macro

Macro and micro are closely connected from a philosophic viewpoint. Mystics, for example, believe human beings are an integral and meaningful component of the macrocosm. Experiencing feelings of oneness with the universe during meditation is an example of this. In literature, close reading of individual lines in a text helps a reader to understand a book’s central pattern and gain insight into its overall themes.

About the Author

Based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Elizabeth Burns began writing professionally in 1988. She has worked as a feature writer for various Irish newspapers, including the "Irish News," "Belfast News Letter" and "Sunday Life." Burns has a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Ulster as well as a Master of Research in arts.

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