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

Martin has been honored with the distinction of Super Lawyer in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 consecutively, the release stated. Staff Reports, Houston Chronicle, "Business Briefs for the Week of July 13-20," 13 July 2018 If America had a prose laureate, Hall could have worn the crown with distinction. Danny Heitman, The Christian Science Monitor, "Donald Hall: poet, farmer, indefatigable observer of life," 26 June 2018 Williams — now 23 and with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and a master’s in engineering — is closing her first year at Pratt & Whitney with another distinction: She was recently named chairperson of the National Society of Black Engineers. Maya Moore, courant.com, "Women At Pratt & Whitney Lead National Organizations For Engineers," 23 June 2018 Another provision would offer retroactive relief to those punished more harshly for crimes involving crack than powder cocaine, an arbitrary distinction. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "A Jailbreak for Bipartisanship," 15 Nov. 2018 One important distinction between an intolerance and an allergy is that with an allergy, eating a tiny amount of the food can cause a serious, sometimes life-threatening reaction. SELF, "I'm a Registered Dietitian and Here’s What I Want People to Know About 'Food Sensitivity' Testing Kits," 12 Oct. 2018 There was no Hitler to defeat, and little distinction between black and white, right and wrong. Aaron Schnoor, WSJ, "The Great War Produced Some Great Poetry," 9 Nov. 2018 There’s a distinction between being supportive and smothering a survivor with attention. Elly Belle, Teen Vogue, "What You Should Know About Dating a Domestic Abuse Survivor," 26 Oct. 2018 Lawmakers tried to slice the Gordian knot of the trolley problem by stating that all human life should be valued equally and that any distinction based on personal features like age or gender should be prohibited. James Vincent, The Verge, "Global preferences for who to save in self-driving car crashes revealed," 24 Oct. 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

13 Dec 2018

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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Comments on distinction

What made you want to look up distinction? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a nest or breeding place

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