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 Though Daly was business-like, clear-headed and assertive about her disability, a few moments of discrimination have stuck with the daughters. Sophie Carson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Disability rights advocate Ellen Daly dies at 82 after long career knocking down barriers in her path, enacting change," 28 Dec. 2019 While immigration attorneys say there’s no pattern of discrimination against particular nationalities, the new policies disproportionately affect Indians, who hold nearly three quarters of all H-1Bs. Sinduja Rangarajan, Quartz India, "In Trump’s America, the H-1B dream has turned into a bureaucratic nightmare for skilled Indians," 3 Dec. 2019 The Women, Peace and Security Index seeks to understand these global differences by measuring women’s inclusion in society, sense of security, and exposure to discrimination—key indicators of how women are faring. National Geographic, "The best and worst countries to be a woman," 15 Oct. 2019 Ghetto benches, as they were called, were an official form of discrimination against Jews in prewar Poland. Katarzyna Markusz, sun-sentinel.com, "University of Warsaw students remember pre-WWII segregation of Jews at the school," 8 Oct. 2019 Uber settled charges of alleged gender discrimination by a creating a $4.4 million victims’ fund and agreeing to have its workplace independently monitored for three years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced this month. Washington Post, "Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick cuts his last ties with the ride-hailing giant," 24 Dec. 2019 The Dalits and members of other lower castes, for example, have been complaining for years about discrimination under Mr. Modi. New York Times, "As Protests Flare in India, Modi Plays a New Position: Defense," 24 Dec. 2019 Delgado's lawsuit says that this was retaliation for her complaints about discrimination. Jason Silverstein, CBS News, "Lawsuit says Trump 2016 campaign staffer was punished after supervisor got her pregnant," 24 Dec. 2019 The lab chimps’ lack of discrimination lines up with chimpanzees’ behavior in the wild, Hattori says. Eva Frederick, Science | AAAS, "Dancing chimpanzees may reveal how humans started to boogie," 23 Dec. 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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Time Traveler for discrimination

Time Traveler

The first known use of discrimination was in 1621

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Statistics for discrimination

Last Updated

13 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Discrimination.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discriminations. Accessed 17 January 2020.

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More Definitions for discrimination


How to pronounce discrimination (audio)

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

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