Difference Between Centripetal and Centrifugal Force

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: August 27, 2022


Difference Between Centripetal and Centrifugal Force Difference Between Centripetal and Centrifugal Force

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Introduction - Who Proposed The Idea Of Centripetal And Centrifugal Force?

Going back in history, because no study is complete without the evaluation of the history of the topic, we come to find that the history of centripetal and centrifugal force is a complex and lengthy evolution of thought about the nature of forces, relativity and nature of the physical laws. The beginning laws of centrifugal force were purely based on intuition and knowledge without proper reasoning, and it is believed that somehow, a circular motion was more natural than a straight motion.

The term ‘centrifugal’  was first used by Christiaan Huygens in his 1673 De Vi Centrifuga and mentioned this in his 1673 Horologium Oscillatorium on pendulums.

Now, Sir Isaac Newton combined Huygens law and Kepler’s law of planetary motion (the law of how the planets rotate in orbits around the sun), and gave us, “the proposition that by a centrifugal force reciprocally as the square of the distance a planet must revolve in an ellipsis about the centre of the force places in the lower umbilicus of the ellipsis, and with a radius drawn to that centre, describe the areas proportional to the times.”

Newton then coined the term ‘centripetal force’ in his discussions of gravity in his De motu corporum in gyrum, 1684 manuscript which he sent to Edmund Halley.

What Was The Need For Centripetal And Centrifugal Forces?

We cannot deny that a man is a curious being. There is always a need to know more and explore more. The thirst for knowledge is unquenchable in some people usually known as the researchers, who then go to lengths to find out the answer to a simple or a complex question and thus, giving us theories to understand the world better.

How does the world rotate around the sun? Why does it not go flying away? What is the force that binds us to the sun? Why do the planets never collide with each other? How does rotation take place? Why do I feel like I would fly off from a merry-go-round?

All of these are innocent questions, they sound easy to us now because most of us know the cause behind it. But ever wondered how the people in the old days viewed such thoughts? Magic! Or is it?

Everything originates from science. It has an answer for almost every question that a man has, well, the relevant questions of course. But the sole need to know more about centripetal and centrifugal forces was not to add tons of homework or add more to your syllabus, no, it was to educate ourselves more about the topics revolving around our daily lives.

Difference Between Centripetal and Centrifugal Force in Tabular Form

Table: Centripetal vs. Centrifugal Force
A force that keeps the body moving in a circular motion with a uniform speed is known as centripetal force.
A fictitious force caused due to the inertia of the body moving in a circular motion, away from the centre is known as centrifugal force.
Along the radius towards the centre of the object.
Along the radius away from the centre of the object.
Coined by
Isaac Newton in 1684
and Christiaan Hygens in 1659
Fc = mv2/r
Fc = mw2/r
Real force.
Pseudo force.
Solar system, gravity, frictional force.
Merry go round, mud flying off a tire.

What is Centripetal Force?

A centripetal force is a force which allows the body to follow a curved path or a circular path. Centri means centre and petal - meaning-seeking, now to put both the terms together we get centre seeking, which forms the major difference between centripetal and centrifugal forces. Because a centripetal force pulls the object inwards and tried to keep it moving in the circular motion. A very common example of the centripetal force is the solar system, all of the planets revolve around the sun at a constant speed without fail. The force which is in active motion there is the centripetal force which allows the celestial bodies to rotate around the sun at a given speed.

According to Sir Isaac Newton, “a force by which bodies are drawn or impelled, or in any way tend, towards a point as a centre,” is a centripetal force.

In Which Direction Does The Centripetal Force Pull The Object Of Concern?

The centripetal force pulls the object towards the centre of the focal point from where the object is set to rotate, which also means that the force is always perpendicular to the direction that the object is being displaced.

Formula = m (v2/r)

Where m = mass;

and r = radius.

Is The Centripetal Force Real?

Centripetal force is a real force because it is a force being applied to a body moving in a circular motion due to which it changes the velocity by changing the direction. Also, a centripetal force can be measured at an inertial frame.

What Does The Value Of A Centripetal Force Depend On? Why?

We all know that every formula in physics is dependent on several factors and studying those factors is our main aim while solving numerical. So while studying the centripetal force we saw the formula and the units involved in that formula. It majorly depends upon the velocity of the object as it follows the circular path; the object’s distance from the centre and the mass of the object; which is the main focus of our problems while conducting the study.

What Is The Function Of A Centripetal Force?

The main aim of the centripetal force is the keep an object moving in a circular path of motion.


  • Spinning a ball on a string. When we tie a string around and ball, firmly of course and twirl it round and round, our hand is the focal point in that case and the tension on the string will be the force which is binding the object to the centre through tension. Now because of that same tension, the object is in a continuous motion and it is the same string which can change the speed of the object. However, the string is also pulling the object of concern, the ball, towards the inside thus causing the centripetal force to be in action.
  • Planets orbiting around the sun. We all know how the solar system works. Every planet in the solar system orbits around the sun in an elliptical motion. What stops the planets from flying away? That’s right, it’s the centripetal force in action again where the gravity of the sun pulls the planets towards the inside and prevents the said planets from being lost in the vast galaxy. (As appealing as it sounds, we do not want that, believe me.)
  • On a circular race track the racers would often feel a pull towards the centre because of the gravity which provides the centripetal force causing the pull.
  • On a roller coaster when we go through a loop, we are drawn towards the centre because of the centripetal force.

What is a Centrifugal Force?

A centrifugal force is the force which arises from the body’s inertia, while the body is moving in a circular motion and allows it to act towards the outside of the centre. It is a force that draws the circular moving object moving away from the centre. It is also defined as, a fictitious force, peculiar to a particle moving on a circular path that has the same magnitude and dimensions as the force that keeps the particle on its circular path (the centripetal force) but points in the opposite direction.

In Which Direction Does The Centrifugal Force Pull The Object Of Concern?

While we have learned earlier on in the table given, centrifugal force is the exact opposite of centripetal force in many ways such as the direction of its objects. The centrifugal force is an apparent force that pulls the object away from the centre while the said object is on a rotational motion. This is also the biggest difference between centripetal and centrifugal forces.

Formula – f = mw2r

Where f = centrifugal force;

m = mass;

w = angular velocity;

and r = distance from the origin or the radius.

Is the Centrifugal Force Real?

It is to be noted that centrifugal force is not a real force. It is said to be fictitious or virtual in consideration of the centripetal force which causes the object of rotation to move away from the centre. The centrifugal force is not fundamental but is caused by the rotation of the reference frame.

What Does The Value Of Centrifugal Force Depend On And Why?

As depicted in the formula for calculating the centrifugal force, we come to notice that it majorly depends upon the mass, radius and angular velocity or speed of the rotation. Thus an increased change in any of these objects can cause a rapid change in the centrifugal force of the rotating object.

What is the Function of Centrifugal Force?

Centrifugal force is said to be acting upon every rotating object when observed from a third person’s view. The centrifugal force causes the objects in the rotating frame to move away from the centre.


  • Driving. While driving when a sharp turn occurs in our path we tend to take all the precautions and be as careful as we can to not fall off our bikes. During that time phase, we experience the centrifugal force because the bike which is drifting is being pulled in the opposite direction from the centre, we seem to be pulled backwards by an unknown force.
  • In a washing machine, when we watch closely we notice all of the clothes sticking to the wall of the machine. It drifts away from the centre and is an excellent example of centrifugal force working in real life.
  • We all hate it when a car drives past us during monsoon and splashes the dirty water on us, don’t we? If we think of that situation more scientifically we will notice that when the tire is rotating, it is pushing the object under it in the outward direction. Be it dirt or dirty mud water.
  • Merry-go-round. As a kid, we all loved it, no matter how dizzy it made us, no matter how many of our clothes were soiled, no matter how many times we fell off it, it was a kid favourite filled with laughter and joy and so many memories. But when we think about it, why did we often fall from it? It was the centrifugal force again. While we would stand at the end of the ride clutching onto the handles for our dear life, we all felt the pull towards the outside and many of us succumbed to it, and oh the rest is history.
  • While travelling through cars or buses or any other four-wheeler. We experience a force that is acting upon us during a sharp u-turn. We are squished in the opposite direction from the centre and experience the centrifugal force working.


As we have studied and deduced throughout the article about the various and major differences between centrifugal and centripetal forces, let’s summarize it all in short. It is a given that centripetal and centrifugal forces are both experiences by rotating objects in motion. The centripetal force works on keeping the motion going and it also pulls the object on the inside towards the centre. It is a real force, also called an actual force. Now there is always confusion about the centrifugal force and the centripetal force which are both closely related. They are almost the same, like the two faces of the same coin. Centrifugal force is the force that pulls the object towards the outward direction, away from the centre. Centrifugal force is also said to be an apparent force, not real.



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"Difference Between Centripetal and Centrifugal Force." Diffzy.com, 2023. Mon. 20 Mar. 2023. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-centripetal-and-centrifugal-force-720>.

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