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

She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993, the first African American to receive the distinction. Brian Pascus, CBS News, "Toni Morrison, Nobel Prize winning author of "Beloved," has died at 88," 6 Aug. 2019 Their other distinction was to establish four sub-vineyards within their property, an approach to highlighting terroir that was ahead of its time. Esther Mobley, SFChronicle.com, "Remembering Boots Brounstein, who revolutionized the idea of Napa Valley terroir at Diamond Creek Vineyards," 6 Aug. 2019 White people created distinctions that withheld wealth, power and equal rights from some, while consolidating it for themselves. baltimoresun.com, "Letters: Trump’s tweets about Cummings are not about Howard County; and more from readers," 6 Aug. 2019 Neither player needed to go on the IL, and Torres was even back in the lineup, going 0 for 5 at DH and thus sparing them the ignominious distinction of having every player in their opening day lineup go on the IL at some point. Dave Sheinin, courant.com, "Taking cues from Aaron Boone, Yankees are savages in pursuit of a championship," 6 Aug. 2019 The smart incorporation of fine art into the campaign added a level of distinction and civility. Melissa Hendrickson, Smithsonian, "How American Brewers Employed Fine Art to Sell Beer," 6 Aug. 2019 Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke, an El Paso native, credits that distinction to the Hispanic origin of the El Paso population. Nicole Chavez, CNN, "This Walmart has united Americans and Mexicans in El Paso for decades. They say terror won't divide them," 5 Aug. 2019 For example, the ratio of white to brown sugar dictates the difference between a crispy or chewy cookie, a distinction emphasized by fiddling around with sugar’s critical 356°F caramelization temperature. Mika Mckinnon, Quartz, "Astronauts will bake cookies in space to see how they cook in zero gravity," 1 Aug. 2019 Aiwazian, though, made clear the distinction between gambling and fantasy. Marc Bona, cleveland.com, "Pro Football Hall of Fame to launch fantasy football game," 1 Aug. 2019

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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Statistics for distinction

Last Updated

9 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for distinction

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

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More Definitions for distinction



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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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 period when something is suspended

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