dis·​crim·​i·​na·​tion | \ di-ˌskri-mə-ˈnā-shən How to pronounce discrimination (audio) \

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 \ di-​ˌskri-​mə-​ˈnā-​shnəl How to pronounce discriminational (audio) , -​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

The commission, among other proposals, would identify the government's role in supporting slavery, the lingering effects of slavery and appropriate remedies for slavery and discrimination. Emily Tillett, CBS News, "Sheila Jackson Lee says reparations commission would help "understand the hurts" of African-Americans," 10 July 2019 The lawsuit came after five players filed a wage-discrimination action against the federation in 2016 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Charlotte Carroll, SI.com, "USWNT Uses Its Equal Pay Lawsuit as Confetti for World Cup Victory Parade," 10 July 2019 Camp plans to train staff Arizona does not have a law prohibiting public accommodations discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Brieanna J. Frank, azcentral, "'He doesn't need any more hurt': Foster mom says Payson camp refused to host transgender son," 10 July 2019 After months of discussion, Medina City Council Monday night (July 8) voted in favor of non-discrimination legislation that would protect LGBT individuals. Allison Wood, cleveland.com, "Medina Council passes legislation prohibiting LGBT discrimination," 9 July 2019 In March, the 28 members of the 2015 championship team filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) alleging gender discrimination. Rachel Epstein, Marie Claire, "America Deserves to Be Shamed by the U.S. Women's Soccer Team," 8 July 2019 The 2019 World Cup permeated the women’s soccer sphere and broke viewing records, attendance records and scoring records, while also shining a spotlight on and sparking debates about equality and gender discrimination. Alicia Delgallo, Pro Soccer USA, "2019 World Cup could revolutionize women’s soccer globally," 7 July 2019 For decades, the government has helped perpetuate the systemic discrimination that has denied women of color equal opportunities. Andrea González-ramírez, refinery29.com, "Elizabeth Warren's New Plan Aims To Help Women Of Color Rise To The Top In Government," 5 July 2019 Under the preface of the city’s human right’s law, which reportedly outlaw’s discrimination on the basis of race, persons found guilty of the offense could face up to $250,000 in penalties. Jennifer Ford, Essence, "California Votes On Bill To Ban Natural Hair Discrimination," 1 July 2019

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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Statistics for discrimination

Last Updated

14 Jul 2019

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 How to pronounce discrimination (audio) \

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 How to pronounce discrimination (audio) \

Medical Definition of discrimination

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

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Comments on discrimination

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


something desired as essential

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