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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web If there’s a difference between what Ryan Mountcastle showed at the beginning of the season to now, the obvious distinction is in the results. Andy Kostka, Baltimore Sun, 9 May 2022 To your point about the questions, this takes us to the philosophical aspect and the distinction and difference between doing the candidate Q&A’s and participating in these forums. San Diego Union-Tribune, 9 May 2022 Now, as the rest of the world has dropped border controls and restarted business, that distinction has largely evaporated, and Taiwan risks losing out on tourism and investment by continuing to stay closed. New York Times, 9 May 2022 People in abolitionist circles speak about the critical distinction between guilt and accountability. Rachael Bedard, The New Yorker, 7 May 2022 The president of the Constitutional Council read out the results of the election and Macron was given the necklace of Grand Master of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest distinction, before making his speech. Time, 7 May 2022 For context, Paul’s career high in turnovers was eight, a dubious distinction demonstrated a decade ago in a Clippers loss to the Spurs in the 2012 playoffs. Greg Moore, The Arizona Republic, 6 May 2022 After the controversial Ozark series finale, Jonah Byrde currently holds the distinction of firing the shot discussed 'round the world. Keith Nelson, Men's Health, 4 May 2022 Orthmann said earning a record-breaking distinction will be among his greatest accomplishments. Jason Duaine Hahn, PEOPLE.com, 4 May 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of distinction

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

History and Etymology for distinction

see distinct

Learn More About distinction

Time Traveler for distinction

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near distinction




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for distinction

Last Updated

13 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Distinction.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distinction. Accessed 17 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for distinction


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.

More from Merriam-Webster on distinction

Nglish: Translation of distinction for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of distinction for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Name That Food

  • a-light
  • Name these cookies!
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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