dis·​tinc·​tion | \ di-ˈstiŋ(k)-shən \

Definition of distinction

1a archaic : division
b : class sense 4 Mr. Hemingway's … prose is of the first distinction.— Edmund Wilson
2 : 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
3 : something that distinguishes regional distinctions
4 : the quality or state of being distinguishable no distinction of facial features in the twins
5a : 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

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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

At issue, in part, is the distinction between short-term and long-term effects. Sam Schechner, WSJ, "Privacy Problems Mount for Tech Giants," 21 Jan. 2019 The big distinction between schedule 1 and 2 substances, instead, is whether the federal government thinks a drug has medical value. German Lopez, Vox, "Marijuana is illegal under federal law even in states that legalize it," 14 Nov. 2018 That distinction is fading, which is a sign the space industry is coming of age. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "5 Things We Learned From SpaceX's Moon Tourist Announcement," 18 Sep. 2018 The distinction is clear: Apple wanted to send a message that the two phones are related in some way. Shannon Liao, The Verge, "Apple’s new iPhone names are bad, so it’s hard to see where it goes from here," 15 Sep. 2018 This isn’t all that different from a workout that either trainer might recommend to a younger athlete, but the key distinction is extra recovery time. Abigail Barronian, Outside Online, "Here's How to Get Stronger After 50," 12 June 2018 Hiren Bhinde, a director of product management, drew a distinction between the typical desktop PC monitor (1080p with just 8-bit color depths) versus what a smartphone now offers: 2K resolution, HDR, and much deeper color depths. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Meet Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855: AI boosts, a smarter camera, mobile gaming—and bye-bye, JPEG," 5 Dec. 2018 Scientists who work in genetics draw a huge distinction between editing somatic cells and editing germline cells. Jacqueline Detwiler, Popular Mechanics, "Legal vs. Illegal Gene Editing: Here's What's Banned, and Why," 4 Dec. 2018 But there is a crucial distinction to make here: Noah, of course, isn’t Peter. Ella Cerón, Teen Vogue, "Noah Centineo Wants You to Find Your Own Peter Kavinsky," 6 Sep. 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 1a

History and Etymology for distinction

see distinct

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Last Updated

8 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for distinction

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

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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 \

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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