dic·​tion | \ ˈdik-shən How to pronounce diction (audio) \

Definition of diction

1a : vocal expression : enunciation
b : pronunciation and enunciation of words in singing
2 : choice of words especially with regard to correctness, clearness, or effectiveness
3 obsolete : verbal description

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Other Words from diction

dictional \ ˈdik-​shnəl How to pronounce dictional (audio) , -​shə-​nᵊl \ adjective
dictionally \ ˈdik-​shnəl-​ē How to pronounce dictionally (audio) , -​shə-​nᵊl-​ \ adverb

Did You Know?

When your English teacher complains about some of the words you chose to use in an essay, she's talking about your diction. She may also use the term when commenting on the word choices made by a poet, and why a particular word was the best one possible in a particular line. But the second meaning of diction is just as common, and your English teacher might use that one on you as well, especially when she's asked you to read something aloud and you mumble your way through it.

Examples of diction in a Sentence

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 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 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 The actor's diction was so poor I could hardly understand what he was saying. The student's essay was full of careless diction.
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Recent Examples on the Web His father enrolled him in diction and acting courses, and sent him to a top marionette training school in Czechoslovakia at age 16. Liz Alderman, New York Times, "The French Theaters Where the iPhone Is No Match for Guignol," 11 Nov. 2019 Instead, Conan Doyle emphasizes leisurely word-painting and antiquated period diction. Michael Dirda, Washington Post, "Arthur Conan Doyle wrote more than detective novels. Let’s not forget his more swashbuckling stories.," 15 Jan. 2020 Nat, a man in his mid-forties, has a diction that feels decidedly out of joint with his age and his era. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "John le Carré’s Scathing Tale of Brexit Britain," 26 Oct. 2019 Traveling with me: Johanna, Eiyla and Hawthorne, all with clear diction and the ability to project their voices throughout the moving carriage. Matthew J. Palm, orlandosentinel.com, "For a spooky ride, all aboard Phantasmagoria’s ghost train | Review," 25 Sep. 2019 The tour, narrated in Corti’s scholarly diction, accelerates. Jonathan Kauffman, Los Angeles Times, "How Darrell Corti became a tastemaker in California food and wine," 9 Oct. 2019 Costa-Jackson’s beautiful diction and rolled Rs would have been great in an oratorio, but this was not the way a punk Mimì, alert to everything around her, would sound. Los Angeles Times, "Review: For an embattled L.A. Opera, a ‘La Bohème’ that points the way forward," 15 Sep. 2019 Foreign language classes in school often focus on formal diction that sounds nothing like the way people actually talk. NBC News, "Master a new language in time for your next big vacation or trip," 24 July 2019 Yes, the diction in the tweets is strange sometimes, but no more so than, say, Jeff Bezos’s sexts. Dustin Kurtz, The New Republic, "Why Amazon’s Twitter Ambassadors Are So Sad," 16 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'diction.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of diction

1581, in the meaning defined at sense 3

History and Etymology for diction

earlier, "word, phrase," going back to Middle English dicion "saying," borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French dictyoun "word," borrowed from Latin dictiōn-, dictiō "act of speaking, speech, (in grammar) word, expression, form," from dic-, variant stem of dīcere "to talk, speak, say, utter" + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of action nouns; dīcere going back to Indo-European *dei̯k- "show, point out," whence also, with varying ablaut, Germanic *tīh-a- "point out" (whence Old English tēon "to accuse," Old Saxon aftīhan "to deny," Old High German zīhan "to accuse," Old Norse tjā, tēa "to show, report," Gothic gateihan "to announce, tell"), Greek deíknȳmi, deiknýnai "to show, point out," Sanskrit diśati "(s/he) shows, exhibits"

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Time Traveler for diction

Time Traveler

The first known use of diction was in 1581

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Statistics for diction

Last Updated

17 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Diction.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diction. Accessed 25 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for diction


How to pronounce diction (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of diction

: the clearness of a person's speech
: the way in which words are used in speech or writing


dic·​tion | \ ˈdik-shən How to pronounce diction (audio) \

Kids Definition of diction

1 : choice of words especially with regard to correctness, clearness, and effectiveness
2 : the ability to say words He has excellent diction for his age.

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