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

There are sporting, aesthetic, and even moral distinctions to untangle. Kanishk Tharoor, The Atlantic, "The Elusive Underdog Magic of the World Cup," 14 July 2018 The only symmetry there appeared to be between people and from group to group was a desire for distinction. Kevin Acee, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Padres find they can't turn all blue eyes brown, but ...," 14 July 2018 No matter how thick the orchestration became, distinctions among instrumental sections and lucidity of voicing were unmistakably apparent. Howard Reich, chicagotribune.com, "CSO at Ravinia review: Marin Alsop poetically launches Bernstein tribute," 13 July 2018 Republic Records holds the top three slots on the Billboard 200 albums chart (dated July 14) -- the first time any label has pulled off the feat in over 15 years, and the first time Republic has achieved the distinction. Keith Caulfield, Billboard, "Republic Records Rules Top 3 on Billboard 200 Albums Chart, Led by Drake, Florence + The Machine & Post Malone," 12 July 2018 McCain, who is battling a deadly form of brain cancer from his home in northern Arizona, held the distinction with high respect. Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, azcentral, "U.S. Navy names destroyer after Sen. John McCain," 11 July 2018 One of the most difficult tasks for people who run a small business from home is establishing a clear distinction between work life and home life. Rhonda Abrams, USA TODAY, "Seven tricks for home office success," 11 July 2018 Make the Road New York, an immigrant rights group that is working with the Silva family, is trying to help cardholders navigate those tricky distinctions. Zoe Greenberg, New York Times, "The IDs Were Meant to Protect Immigrants. Are They a Liability?," 10 July 2018 The distinction, not to be confused with the team’s longstanding Honor Roll, has been bestowed on luminaries since 2011, though after the fourth round of the selections — in 2014 — the team hadn’t made any additions. Steve Svekis, Sun-Sentinel.com, "The Dolphins prepare to unveil latest Walk of Fame members | Photos," 10 July 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

4 Oct 2018

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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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