dic·​tion | \ˈdik-shən \

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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from diction

dictional \-​shnəl, -​shə-​nᵊl \ adjective
dictionally \-​ē \ 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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

Intonation and diction were precise, balances exact, both within the choral body and between chorus and orchestra. John Von Rhein, chicagotribune.com, "Under Muti's baton, CSO Chorus delivers fervent, sensitive reading of Schubert's Mass in E flat," 23 Mar. 2018 Santander, the finance company, uses a speech analytics software called CallMiner that grades employees based on their diction and word choice. Sonia Rao, chicagotribune.com, "'What's up with that white voice?': The tricky art of linguistic code-switching," 14 July 2018 Matt Zwahlen of Clinton, Utah, says Siri is helping his 3-year-old son Connor, who has had some speech delays, improve his diction. Sue Shellenbarger, WSJ, "Alexa: Don’t Let My 2-Year-Old Talk to You That Way," 10 July 2018 Patience Worth’s strange diction, large output, and mix of transcendentalism and Christianity seemed at odds with Curran, a homemaker who dropped out of school at 13. Joy Lanzendorfer, Longreads, "Ghost Writer: The Story of Patience Worth, the Posthumous Author," 14 June 2018 His manner is warm and inviting while his diction is clear and crisp. Rochelle O'gorman, latimes.com, "Audiobook reviews: Authors take the mic," 7 June 2018 Her work is known for its metaphors from nature and straightforward diction. Carole Goldberg, courant.com, "Steve Almond To Give Writing Workshop, Eric D. Lehman To Discuss 'Connecticut Vanguards'," 16 May 2018 She and her co-stars aren’t out to create believable characters but to mimic someone’s idea of what very decent people were like in 19th-century New England, their diction refined, their belief systems undisturbed by Darwin. John Anderson, WSJ, "‘Little Women’ Review: Big Problems," 10 May 2018 Benjamin Ludwig, as Esmeralda’s love interest, has a delightfully booming voice but occasionally forgets musical-theater diction. Matthew J. Palm, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Garden's 'Hunchback' is a musical mix of flaws, charms," 4 May 2018

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.

See More

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"

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about diction

Statistics for diction

Last Updated

10 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for diction

The first known use of diction was in 1581

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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 \

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.

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on diction

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


to move with a clumsy heavy tread

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!