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

The distinction drawn in the Abood case — between a union’s political spending and other activities — is untenable and unworkable, Justice Alito added. Adam Liptak, New York Times, "Supreme Court Ruling Delivers a Sharp Blow to Labor Unions," 27 June 2018 That’s almost a distinction without a difference, other than the fact that the home plate umpire is likely to get a clearer look at most HBP situations. Peter Schmuck, baltimoresun.com, "MLB needs to rethink how it handles video review at home plate," 27 June 2018 Only five have earned the distinction this century, and none has ever done it in under a decade. Michael Hogan, HWD, "Andrew Lloyd Webber Isn’t Stressing Over His Potential EGOT," 20 June 2018 But Blunt’s answer glossed over one simple distinction that needs to be made: There’s a difference between interfering with a government authority and spreading misinformation on behalf of that authority. Anne Branigin, The Root, "Bus Driver Tells Passengers They Must Be US Citizens in Order to Board," 19 June 2018 But each ranks first—an unenviable distinction—in at least one of the five metrics assessed by total cases, rates, or proportions. Jon Cohen, Science | AAAS, "Ending AIDS? These three places show the epidemic is far from over," 14 June 2018 The Mandeville-area's Fire District 4 has been given a Class 1 rating, becoming the first in the parish and one of six statewide holding the top distinction, the fire department announced Monday (June 4). Robert Rhoden, NOLA.com, "Mandeville-area fire department attains enviable Class 1 rating," 4 June 2018 In a nation seemingly consumed in race, silhouettes erased that distinction, rendering everyone in the same black outline. Roger Catlin, Smithsonian, "Rarely Seen 19th-Century Silhouette of a Same-Sex Couple Living Together Goes On View," 25 May 2018 But people at the town hall didn’t worry too much about the fine distinctions, and neither, for the most part, does Steyer. Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker, "Will the Fervor for Impeachment Start a Democratic Civil War?," 19 May 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

18 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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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).


to reject or criticize sharply

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