noun dic·tion \ˈdik-shən\

Definition of diction

  1. 1 obsolete :  verbal description

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

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


play \-shnəl, -shə-nəl\ adjective


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.

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.

Origin and Etymology 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

DICTION Defined for English Language Learners


noun dic·tion \ˈdik-shən\

Definition of diction for English Language Learners

  • : the clearness of a person's speech

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

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).


to criticize severely

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