dis·​tance | \ ˈdis-tən(t)s How to pronounce distance (audio) \

Definition of distance

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 obsolete : discord
2a : separation (see separation sense 2b) in time spanning the distance of several centuries
b mathematics : the degree or amount of separation between two points, lines, surfaces, or objects
c(1) mathematics : an extent of area or an advance (see advance entry 2 sense 1) along a route measured in a straight line measure the distance between point A and point B the distance between the Earth and the Sun
(2) : an extent of space measured other than linearly within walking distance
d : an extent of advance from a beginning they carried Puritan severity quite a distance— John Gould
e : expanse A distance of field, woods, and diluted November sky …— Elizabeth Bowen
f(1) : length of a race or contest won both the 400 meter and the 800 meter distances
(2) : the full length (as of a prizefight or ball game)
(3) : a long race distance training
3 : the quality or state of being distant: such as
a : spatial remoteness quite a distance between the two hospitals
b : personal and especially emotional separation feels a distance from her brother that wasn't there before also : reserve, coldness
c : difference, disparity the distance between the two philosophies
4 : a distant point or region gazed out into the distance
5a fine arts : aesthetic distance
b : capacity to observe dispassionately
go the distance or less commonly last the distance
: to complete a course of action


distanced; distancing

Definition of distance (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : to make or maintain a personal or emotional separation from : to place or keep at a distance able to distance themselves from the tragedy distances herself from her coworkers
2 : to leave far behind : outstrip easily distanced the other candidates in the race



Definition of distance (Entry 3 of 3)

: taking place via electronic media linking instructors and students who are not together in a classroom distance learning distance education

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for distance

Synonyms: Noun

lead, length, remove, spacing, spread, stretch, way

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of distance in a Sentence


What is the distance between the Earth and the Sun? The gas station is a short distance away. Speed is measured in time and distance. She kept the children a safe distance from the road. The sign was hard to read from a distance. We followed them at a distance. She feels a distance from her brother that wasn't there before. Although they were once good friends, there was now considerable distance between them. He wants to put distance between himself and his former boss.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Broken down into a process, researchers decided to add additional piping to increase the distance between the toilet bowl and the flush valve. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Using Physics To Build a Quieter Airplane Toilet," 5 Apr. 2019 Thanks to the current distance between Earth and Mars, one signal of light takes eight minutes and seven seconds to travel between the two planets. Loren Grush, The Verge, "Watch NASA engineers track the harrowing landing of a spacecraft on Mars today," 26 Nov. 2018 The physical distance between nations and people seemed less important New ways to discover and discuss music, film, and books were appearing all the time. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Prince William Offers a Bold Condemnation of Social Media Companies at the BBC Headquarters," 15 Nov. 2018 The microscope also automatically refocuses, allowing surgeons to see the distance between blood vessels and nerve structures without manually adjusting their equipment. Rebecca Lurye, courant.com, "UConn Health Is First U.S. Hospital With Augmented Reality Surgical Microscope," 12 July 2018 This guy was the Bob Dylan of Russia who had fans travel the entire span of the USSR – that’s 6,000 miles, twice the distance between LA and New York — just to come and shake his hand. Andrew Dansby, Houston Chronicle, "Ludovico: The piano’s quiet rock star talks about his first Houston concert," 11 July 2018 On smaller scales—across patches of surface about the distance between New York and Los Angeles or less—energy dissipated instead, indicating that other processes must also be afoot. Joshua Sokol, WIRED, "Flattened Fluids Help Scientists Understand Oceans and Atmospheres," 7 July 2018 The Guardian Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. Ellen Mcgirt, Fortune, "raceAhead: Remembering the Capital Gazette Victims," 29 June 2018 Not since Harry Truman’s icy handover to Dwight Eisenhower has the country experienced anything close to the distance between the outgoing and incoming president as there is now between Obama and Trump. Gabriel Debenedetti, Daily Intelligencer, "Where Is Barack Obama?," 24 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Tandy became more closed off, distancing herself from her mother and abusing drugs. Claire Dodson, Teen Vogue, "Marvel's "Cloak and Dagger" Season 2 Throws Fresh Villains in the Mix and New Social Issues to Tackle," 9 Apr. 2019 After news of the college admissions scandal broke on Tuesday morning, organizations were quick to distance themselves from those charged. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Hallmark Drops Lori Loughlin and Sephora Dumps Olivia Jade in Fallout from the College Scandal," 14 Mar. 2019 Satellites placed in low-Earth orbit usually stopped distancing themselves from the planet after traveling 1,000 miles or less. Alex Hollings, Popular Mechanics, "The Saturn V Story: From Nazi Roots to America's Moon Rocket," 6 Feb. 2019 What’s essential to SpaceX’s business is its launches, and every one this year has been a success — helping the company to distance itself from its last rocket explosion in 2016. Loren Grush, The Verge, "The Verge 2018 tech report card: SpaceX," 29 Dec. 2018 That isn’t to say, however, that the line of communication is completely closed when a family member first starts distancing themselves. Ashley Edwards Walker, Good Housekeeping, "How to Re-Establish Contact With an Estranged Family Member," 21 Dec. 2018 Families are endlessly complicated, and there’s sure to be a host of reasons behind the scenes why Meghan may have chosen to distance herself. Lucy Wood, Marie Claire, "Meghan Markle's Father Has Accused Her of "Ghosting" Him in His First Interview Since Her Pregnancy News," 17 Dec. 2018 In the strength column, the move puts new teeth behind the EU’s earlier measures to distance itself from the regime of despot Nicolás Maduro. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Europe’s ‘Foreign’ in Search of a ‘Policy’," 7 Feb. 2019 But unlike other New England Republicans, Stefanowski did relatively little to distance himself from President Donald Trump. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Ned Lamont elected governor of Connecticut," 7 Nov. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'distance.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of distance


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1578, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1972, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for distance


see distant


see distant


see distant

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about distance

Statistics for distance

Last Updated

13 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for distance

The first known use of distance was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for distance



English Language Learners Definition of distance

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the amount of space between two places or things
: a point or place that is far away from another point or place
: a state in which people are not involved with or friendly toward each other



English Language Learners Definition of distance (Entry 2 of 2)

: to show that you are not involved with someone or something : to end a connection to or relationship with someone or something


dis·​tance | \ ˈdi-stəns How to pronounce distance (audio) \

Kids Definition of distance

1 : how far from each other two points or places are
2 : a point or place that is far away He saw a light in the distance.
3 : the quality or state of not being friendly She heard the distance in his voice.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on distance

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for distance

Spanish Central: Translation of distance

Nglish: Translation of distance for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of distance for Arabic Speakers

Comments on distance

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


an act or instance of returning to life

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!