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 diction (audio) , -​shə-​nᵊl \ adjective
dictionally \ ˈdik-​shnəl-​ē How to pronounce diction (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 This is primarily about the dissembling teens will go through in order to avoid talking about their true feelings; the diction and behavior feel true-to-life. Matthew Love, Vulture, "Saturday Night Live Recap: Nick Jonas Dreams of Post-COVID Life," 28 Feb. 2021 Accompanied by Tedd Firth, her music director and a pianist of the highest quality, Ms. Errico gives a fetching performance in which her radiant singing and impeccable diction are shown off to ideal effect. Terry Teachout, WSJ, "‘Meet Me in St. Louis,’ ‘Season for Joy’ and ‘An Iliad’ Reviews: The Gift of Great Performances," 23 Dec. 2020 In unfavorable reviews, culinary diction escalates into a form of operatic invective. Theodore Gioia, The New Republic, "Death to the Negative Restaurant Review," 16 Dec. 2020 Voice mode placed an emphasis on the clear diction and voice of each player's robotic advisor. Sian Babish, chicagotribune.com, "Panasonic SoundSlayer review: What are the advantages of a soundbar built specifically for gaming?," 22 Sep. 2020 Some tweets are lightly edited to remove profanity or improve punctuation, diction or clarity. Eric Zorn, chicagotribune.com, "Everything, even the Tweet of the Week poll, happens for a reason," 15 Sep. 2020 Some tweets are lightly edited to remove profanity or improve punctuation, diction or clarity. Eric Zorn, chicagotribune.com, "Everything, even the Tweet of the Week poll, happens for a reason," 15 Sep. 2020 His diction mirrors the emotional gravity in each scene, which, combined with raw honesty, is what makes his writing so relatable. Khrysgiana Pineda, USA TODAY, "Review: Bill Clegg's 'The End of the Day' a story of friendship, love and memory," 30 Sep. 2020 The rule-by-law theory may better reflect the political situation than such overheated diction. Ankush Khardori, The New York Review of Books, "When the Rule of Law Turns into Rule By Law," 25 Sep. 2020

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 *dei̯ḱ- "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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Learn More about diction

Time Traveler for diction

Time Traveler

The first known use of diction was in 1581

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Statistics for diction

Last Updated

7 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Diction.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diction. Accessed 11 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for diction



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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