In a nutshell: deactivating your Facebook account is temporary, deleting your account is permanent.
What’s the difference?
Deactivating your Facebook account gives you the flexibility to leave and come back whenever you want. If you deactivate your account people won’t be able to see the your Facebook Timeline, but messages you have sent will still be visible to those who received them. Reasons for deactivating your account may include traveling, studying, recuperating or anytime you don’t want to spend time on Facebook, and don’t want others to post things on your wall, or tag you in posts while you are gone. You can deactivate your account whenever you want, for as long as you want. When you are ready to return, your friends and photos will be there waiting for you.
If you permanently delete your account, you will never be able to regain access to your Facebook account. Facebook warns that it may take up to 90 days to delete all of the things you’ve posted, like your photos, status updates or other data stored in backup systems. While it is being deleted, however, you information is still inaccessible to other people using Facebook.
How to deactivate your Facebook account
1) Click the account menu at the top right of any Facebook page
2) Select Settings, then Security in the left-hand column
3) Choose Deactivate your account then follow the steps to confirm
How to delete your Facebook account
To permanently delete you Facebook account, click the Delete button on this page.