dis·​tance | \ ˈdi-stən(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

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Synonyms for distance

Synonyms: Noun

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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The Navy needed an aircraft that could serve as a carrier strike group’s frontline of defense—closing with inbound bombers at high speed and engaging them from long-enough distances to keep their carriers safely out of harm’s way. Alex Hollings, Popular Mechanics, "Why the F-14 Tomcat Is Such a Badass Plane," 3 May 2019 Push off your right foot and split the distance, placing your foot down halfway between your starting position and where your foot landed for the lateral lunge. SELF, "Core and Upper Body Strength Push," 28 Apr. 2019 Equity is the idea that the shorter person gets a slightly bigger stool so that, in the end, both people can see the same distance. Alison Caporimo, Seventeen, "Everyone Should Be A Feminist and Here's Why," 8 Mar. 2019 Plenty of people don't spend Valentine's Day with their significant other for any number of reasons, including distance, work obligations, or just personal preference. Kelly O'sullivan, Country Living, "Did Chase Chrisley and Girlfriend Lindsey Merrick Break Up?," 21 Feb. 2019 Jonathan Anderson looked completely at peace in Paris earlier this week, despite the specter of his latest Loewe show looming in short distance. Monica Kim, Vogue, "J.W. Anderson on the Beauty of Being Basic—And His Latest Uniqlo Collection," 3 Mar. 2019 Running more trains over shorter distances would... Ted Mann, WSJ, "Amtrak Plan to Expand Ridership Could Sidetrack Storied Trains," 20 Feb. 2019 While drones have been knocked down with thrown sticks, beer bottles, or by shotgun-wielding neighbors, these are usually slow or stationary drones hovering at short distance. David Hambling, Popular Mechanics, "What Are Airports Going to Do About Drones?," 9 Jan. 2019 Companies like Peloton Technology are developing freight platooning systems that let large trucks follow one another at short distances to improve fuel economy. Diana Budds, Curbed, "The future of urban mobility will be shaped by these six issues," 18 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Pressure immediately mounted on friend and foe to distance themselves from me and even ask for my resignation at the first available opportunity. Kaitlin Lange, Indianapolis Star, "Attorney General Curtis Hill: Full transcript of his response to groping allegations," 9 July 2018 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

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.

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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

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Learn More about distance

Statistics for distance

Last Updated

11 May 2019

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Time Traveler for distance

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

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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.

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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).


one that collects or salvages junk

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