dis·​tinc·​tion | \ di-ˈstiŋ(k)-shən How to pronounce distinction (audio) \

Definition of distinction

1 : the act of perceiving someone or something as being not the same and often treating as separate or different : the distinguishing of a difference without distinction as to race, sex, or religion also : the difference distinguished the distinction between imply and infer
2 : something that distinguishes regional distinctions
3 : the quality or state of being distinguishable no distinction of facial features in the twins
4a : the quality or state of being excellent or superior : the quality or state of being distinguished or worthy a politician of some distinction
b : special honor or recognition took a law degree with distinction won many distinctions
c : an accomplishment that sets one apart holds the distinction of being the only American to win the prize
5a : class sense 4 Mr. Hemingway's … prose is of the first distinction.— Edmund Wilson
b archaic : division

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Examples of distinction in a Sentence

There are no obvious distinctions between the two designs. She made a distinction between the words “less” and “fewer.” He was raised in a small town of no great distinction. Her talents gave distinction to the work.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Perhaps, also, the better to kill with, human history providing no shortage of reminders that any distinction between tool and weapon derives from delusions of civilization. Jonny Diamond, Longreads, "Lumbersexuality, a Sport and a Pastime," 8 June 2019 Change concept or execution: The root of the design problem here centers on these fraught questions: Should an addition to a historic building strive to create a harmonious mix of old and new, one that blurs the distinction between past and present? Blair Kamin, chicagotribune.com, "We're only stuck with the lousy Union Station design if we fail to rethink it. Let the debate begin.," 27 June 2018 In the fall, the distinctions between Gomez and Desmond will become more clear, Hoy said. Joshua Stewart, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Wasting no time, campaigns gearing up for November's general election," 15 June 2018 In class 10, which is on mental health and stigma, students learn about the distinction between thoughts and feelings and learn ways stigma manifests in society. Lori Higgins, Detroit Free Press, "Inside West Bloomfield school's attempt to combat suicide, help students cope," 16 May 2018 The distinction between his two fields of writing has seemed less important over time, since his literary essays brim with personal anecdote and his familiar essays sparkle with literary allusions. Danny Heitman, The Christian Science Monitor, "'The Ideal of Culture' showcases Joseph Epstein’s familiar ease with the treasures of Western culture," 8 May 2018 There’s no distinction between barkeep and barista, as everyone is cross-trained; the space was cannily configured to Death and Co.'s specs. Mark Ellwood, Condé Nast Traveler, "Death and Co.'s Arrival May Turn Denver Into a Cocktail City," 27 Apr. 2018 The distinction between medicine and mind-altering drug may have been lost on ancient peoples. Andrew Lawler, Science | AAAS, "Did ancient Mesopotamians get high? Near Eastern rituals may have included opium, cannabis," 19 Apr. 2018 Medical ethicists have argued for decades on the moral distinction between lying and deception, and physicians have long struggled with absolute honesty versus withholding dismal facts. Angira Patel, STAT, "Is it ever OK for doctors to lie to their patients?," 17 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'distinction.' 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 distinction

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 5b

History and Etymology for distinction

see distinct

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Statistics for distinction

Last Updated

14 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for distinction

The first known use of distinction was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for distinction



English Language Learners Definition of distinction

: a difference that you can see, hear, smell, feel, etc. : a noticeable difference between things or people
: the separation of people or things into different groups
: importance, excellence, or achievement


dis·​tinc·​tion | \ di-ˈstiŋk-shən How to pronounce distinction (audio) \

Kids Definition of distinction

1 : difference sense 1 the distinction between right and wrong
2 : the act of seeing or pointing out a difference He made a distinction between the two words.
3 : great worth : excellence a writer of distinction
4 : something that makes a person or thing special or different Our house has the distinction of being the oldest one in town.

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