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

Alpine Superior Court paid $2,500 to settle a discrimination claim from a woman. Greg Moran, sandiegouniontribune.com, "State court agency has paid more than $800,000 since 2010 to settle legal claims, records show," 5 July 2018 The court therefore held Terrell had failed to establish a viable age discrimination claim. Jack Greiner, Cincinnati.com, "HIPAA laws cracking down on co-worker snooping," 3 July 2018 The lawsuit is one of at least two reverse gender discrimination claims against the university. Caleb Parke, Fox News, "Yale plays hardball with Jack Montague, expelled hoops star, as reverse discrimination lawsuit continues," 14 May 2018 The result was the Toronto Declaration, which says companies need to make sure that machine learning does not extend discrimination. Joseph Menn, The Christian Science Monitor, "Silicon Valley employees increasingly push companies on ethics," 13 July 2018 Iranians don’t care about Palestinians, and neither do the ayatollahs, who subject Iran’s own Arab population to discrimination and repression. Eliora Katz, WSJ, "Iranians Are Now Chanting ‘Death to Palestine’," 13 July 2018 This past March, Uber settled a class action discrimination suit, representing women and people of color at the company, for $10 million. Madeline Buxton, refinery29.com, "Uber's Head Of HR Resigns Following A Discrimination Investigation," 11 July 2018 In 2013, The Texas Civil Rights Project called for Hughes to resign over other remarks Hughes expressed in a hearing on another employment discrimination matter. Lise Olsen, Houston Chronicle, "Federal Judge Lynn Hughes criticized by appeals court for ‘demeaning’ sexist remarks in criminal case," 7 July 2018 Lorie Fridell, a professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa who has trained BART officers on avoiding bias, said racial disparities in enforcement do not necessarily prove discrimination. Ted Andersen, SFChronicle.com, "Two-thirds of people banned from BART are black — and agency isn’t asking why," 6 July 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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Phrases Related to discrimination

make a discrimination

positive discrimination

Statistics for discrimination

Last Updated

22 Sep 2018

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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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Comments on discrimination

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to deposit or conceal in a hiding place

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