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 As far his reputation goes, Jones observed that there’s a distinction between bad-faith internet critics and people with educated views. Nolan King, MMA Junkie, "Jon Jones: I'm one of the most heavily tested athletes in sports," 3 Feb. 2020 Though the state historically has been tough on crime and holds the dubious distinction as the nation’s incarceration capital, Louisiana seems to be doing very little to carry out its death penalty. Washington Post, "Louisiana executions stall for a decade amid legal quandary," 3 Feb. 2020 In the week before the Iowa caucuses, though, the distinction between the Party on Twitter and the real world seemed to be collapsing. Benjamin Wallace-wells, The New Yorker, "Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Front-Runner," 1 Feb. 2020 Performers will be in costume from head-to-toe, which will conceal their identities, so participants like to have a clear distinction between the crowd and those performing. Shauna Beni, Condé Nast Traveler, "A Guide to the Wildest Carnival Celebrations Around the World," 31 Jan. 2020 Goldberg went on to score the prestigious EGOT distinction, earning two Emmys, a Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award. Rachel Yang, EW.com, "Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg's The Color Purple returning to theaters for 35th anniversary," 30 Jan. 2020 However, there’s a crucial distinction between data on your iPhone and data in your iCloud backups. David Nield, Wired, "How to Get the Most Out of Your Smartphone's Encryption," 29 Jan. 2020 The party at times allowed ethnic minorities some outward expression of cultural distinctions, but territorial integrity and party supremacy were the red line. New York Times, "Her Uighur Parents Were Model Chinese Citizens. It Didn’t Matter.," 29 Jan. 2020 Museum of Fine Arts Houston Director Gary Tinterow noted that distinction during Friday evening's Art of the Islamic Worlds Gala. Amber Elliott, Houston Chronicle, "Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's biennial Art of the Islamic Worlds Gala raises $945,000," 27 Jan. 2020

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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Time Traveler for distinction

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for distinction

Last Updated

8 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Distinction.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distinction. Accessed 19 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for distinction


How to pronounce distinction (audio)

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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