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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web The ensemble of observers is presented both in various group formations and, through deft shifts in point of view and diction, as distinctive voices. The New Yorker, 2 May 2022 Pattern, structure, repetition, rhythm, meter, diction — these transmute familiar, often banal sentiments about love’s old sweet song or Nature’s wonders into heartbreaking art. Washington Post, 27 Apr. 2022 Because candidates' statements are usually vacuous, journalists tend to emphasize superficial qualities of vocal tone, body language, or diction. Samuel Goldman, The Week, 15 Apr. 2022 John Relyea, as the Grand Inquisitor, had the requisite range and volume, yet his diction lacked bite, and his stage business was hackneyed. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 14 Mar. 2022 Like an intricate recipe, her paragraphs balance interior and external worlds, elegant diction and workmanlike narrative. Washington Post, 15 Mar. 2022 Biden’s State of the Union address stayed the course of failure, delivered with nothing resembling panache or basic diction. Charles C. W. Cooke, National Review, 2 Mar. 2022 The diction is matter-of-fact, the syntax conventional; the imagery is simple and bare-boned. Donika Kelly, New York Times, 27 Jan. 2022 Val’s voice and diction would fit into a movie starring The Three Stooges, who grew up not far from here. Steve Ditlea, SPIN, 11 Feb. 2022 See More

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.

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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The first known use of diction was in 1581

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Last Updated

6 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Diction.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diction. Accessed 27 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for diction


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

More from Merriam-Webster on diction

Nglish: Translation of diction for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of diction for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about diction


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