Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


noun dic·tion \ˈdik-shən\

Simple Definition of diction

  • : the clearness of a person's speech

  • : the way in which words are used in speech or writing

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of diction

  1. 1 obsolete :  verbal description

  2. 2 :  choice of words especially with regard to correctness, clearness, or effectiveness

  3. 3 a :  vocal expression :  enunciation b :  pronunciation and enunciation of words in singing

dictional play \-shnəl, -shə-nəl\ adjective
dictionally play \-ē\ adverb

Examples of diction in a sentence

  1. He has wisely chosen to render almost all the material in what novelists and writers of creative nonfiction like to call “close third person,” approximating the diction and consciousness of his characters but retaining the freedom to wander into the bigger picture. —Thomas Mallon, New York Times Book Review, 22 Feb. 2009

  2. No one is better than Didion at using flatness of affect and formality of diction to convey seething anger and disdain. —New Yorker, 8 Oct. 2001

  3. When he sang Anatol in the world premiere of Samuel Barber's Vanessa, in 1958, Gedda's performance received high marks for impeccable diction and enunciation—in that mostly American cast, he was the only principal whose English could be understood. —Patrick J. Smith, Opera News, November 1999

  4. The actor's diction was so poor I could hardly understand what he was saying.

  5. The student's essay was full of careless diction.

Origin of diction

Latin diction-, dictio speaking, style, from dicere to say; akin to Old English tēon to accuse, Latin dicare to proclaim, dedicate, Greek deiknynai to show, dikē judgment, right

First Known Use: 1581

Rhymes with diction

DICTION Defined for Kids


noun dic·tion \ˈdik-shən\

Definition of diction for Students

  1. 1 :  choice of words especially with regard to correctness, clearness, and effectiveness

  2. 2 :  the ability to say words <He has excellent diction for his age.>

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up diction? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


marked by grandiloquent style

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of these is a synonym of nonplus?

reduce disapprove soothe perplex
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.