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

Essential Meaning of discrimination

1 : the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people racial/sexual/religious discrimination = discrimination based on race/sex/religion = discrimination on the basis of race/sex/religion The law prohibits discrimination in hiring. See More ExamplesHe sued the company for age discrimination. blatant forms of discriminationHide
2 formal : the ability to recognize the difference between things that are of good quality and those that are not Those with more discrimination [=discernment] are likely to find the movie dull and clichéd.
3 : the ability to understand that one thing is different from another thing the animal's impressive scent/visual discrimination

Full 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 discrimination (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 Despite the progress made, Arab Americans and Muslims have faced discrimination and hostility over the past 20 years, both from fellow Americans and the U.S. government, which targeted the community as part of its war on terrorism. Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press, 11 Sep. 2021 Gender discrimination and arrogant men, but the three brilliant women refuse to cave and let their circumstances define their impact. Neil Senturia, San Diego Union-Tribune, 9 Sep. 2021 There is no silver bullet for reducing wage discrimination and gender and racial pay gaps. BostonGlobe.com, 8 Sep. 2021 Hernandez, the author, says the country's late ruler, Fidel Castro, outlawed racial discrimination and political parties built along racial lines. John Blake, CNN, 4 Sep. 2021 But discrimination and distrust in the legal system blocked their forebears from formalizing their ownership on paper. NBC News, 2 Sep. 2021 The complaint accuses Humphrey and the other personnel of abuse of process, racial discrimination and violation of the plaintiffs' rights under the Arkansas Constitution. Joseph Flaherty, Arkansas Online, 31 Aug. 2021 For Kudusov and others in Crimea, the Russian takeover evoked tragic family memories of the 1944 mass deportation of Crimean Tatars on Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s order, raising fears of discrimination and persecution. Yuras Karmanau, ajc, 22 Aug. 2021 For Paymaster’s Meacham, the common theme among those people calling and writing online reviews was that the vaccine mandate amounted to discrimination and a rights violation. Michael Russell, oregonlive, 19 Aug. 2021

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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Time Traveler for discrimination

Time Traveler

The first known use of discrimination was in 1621

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Dictionary Entries Near discrimination

discriminating duties


discrimination box

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Statistics for discrimination

Last Updated

14 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Discrimination.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discrimination. Accessed 22 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for discrimination


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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