dis·​crim·​i·​na·​tion | \dis-ˌkri-mə-ˈnā-shən \

Definition of discrimination 

1a : prejudiced or prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment racial discrimination

b : the act, practice, or an instance of discriminating categorically rather than individually

2 : the quality or power of finely distinguishing the film viewed by those with discrimination

3a : the act of making or perceiving a difference : the act of discriminating a bloodhound's scent discrimination

b psychology : the process by which two stimuli differing in some aspect are responded to differently

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Other Words from discrimination

discriminational \-​shnəl, -​shə-​nᵊl \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for discrimination

discernment, discrimination, perception, penetration, insight, acumen mean a power to see what is not evident to the average mind. discernment stresses accuracy (as in reading character or motives or appreciating art). the discernment to know true friends discrimination stresses the power to distinguish and select what is true or appropriate or excellent. the discrimination that develops through listening to a lot of great music perception implies quick and often sympathetic discernment (as of shades of feeling). a novelist of keen perception into human motives penetration implies a searching mind that goes beyond what is obvious or superficial. lacks the penetration to see the scorn beneath their friendly smiles insight suggests depth of discernment coupled with understanding sympathy. a documentary providing insight into the plight of the homeless acumen implies characteristic penetration combined with keen practical judgment. a director of reliable box-office acumen

Discriminating Among Meanings of Discrimination

Discrimination has senses with neutral, positive, and negative connotations. On the one hand, it can refer to "the act (or power) of distinguishing" or to "good taste, refinement." These meanings, sometimes reinforced with modifiers (as in a fine or a nice discrimination), stress an ability to perceive differences as an index of unusual intelligence. On the other hand, when the perception of difference is marked by invidious distinction or hostility, the word (often followed by against) takes on very negative overtones, as in the senses "act of discriminating categorically rather than individually" (discrimination against women, age discrimination) and "a prejudiced outlook or course of action" (racial discrimination). The original, neutral sense of discrimination, "the act of distinguishing," came into English by the early 17th century, followed by the positive one associated with superior discernment in the 18th century. Discrimination in the "prejudice" sense has been in use since the early 19th century, almost 200 years ago.

Examples of discrimination in a Sentence

The law prohibits discrimination in hiring. He sued the company for age discrimination. the animal's impressive scent discrimination
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Recent Examples on the Web

What employees asked for, and what Google plans to do 1) Employees asked Google executives to stop forcing workers to take harassment and discrimination claims to private arbitration. Alexia Fernández Campbell, Vox, "Google announces changes to sexual harassment policies after global employee walkout," 8 Nov. 2018 Katz, who specializes in discrimination cases, told the Times. Christopher Carbone, Fox News, "Facebook accused of allowing gender bias in job ads," 18 Sep. 2018 Although many companies have invested in creating non-discrimination policies and inclusive benefit packages, 31 states still don’t have fully-inclusive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. USA TODAY, "Nearly half of LGBTQ employees remain closeted at work, rate unchanged in decade, study says," 25 June 2018 The evidence collected by investigators would be submitted to a three-member panel of outside experts with experience handling employment and discrimination complaints. Melody Gutierrez, SFChronicle.com, "California lawmakers propose overhaul of sex harassment probes," 15 June 2018 Estes, who filed a discrimination complaint against the school district with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, said that school officials did not appropriately address her complaints of harassment. Jordan Cutler-tietjen, sacbee, "Rocklin Unified community defends bullied lesbian teacher, calls for change," 14 June 2018 Come as Bessie Coleman, who fought race and gender discrimination to become the first black woman pilot in the world. Lynn Yaeger, Vogue, "Why Are History’s Fiercest Female Icons Still Embarrassingly Absent at the Halloween Store?," 26 Oct. 2018 No one wants to be a member of a party of discrimination. Jennifer Williams, Glamour, "The Trump Administration's Wish to Erase Transgender People Includes Me. But I'm a Republican.," 23 Oct. 2018 The idea is that the changes wrought by the state's anti-discrimination bill are jeopardizing non-trans citizens' safety, which is utterly false, according to a UCLA study. Jenny Hollander, Marie Claire, "This Anti-Trans Ballot Measure in Massachusetts Must Be Stopped," 3 Oct. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'discrimination.' 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 discrimination

1621, in the meaning defined at sense 3a

History and Etymology for discrimination

see discriminate

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Last Updated

1 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for discrimination

The first known use of discrimination was in 1621

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More Definitions for discrimination



English Language Learners Definition of discrimination

: the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people

: the ability to recognize the difference between things that are of good quality and those that are not

: the ability to understand that one thing is different from another thing


dis·​crim·​i·​na·​tion | \di-ˌskri-mə-ˈnā-shən \

Kids Definition of discrimination

1 : the practice of unfairly treating a person or group differently from other people or groups of people The law prohibits discrimination against the disabled.

2 : the ability to see differences Police use a dog's discrimination of smells.


dis·​crim·​i·​na·​tion | \dis-ˌkrim-ə-ˈnā-shən \

Medical Definition of discrimination 

: the process by which two stimuli differing in some aspect are responded to differently : differentiation

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