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

And even in its title, the book puns tellingly on the distinction between Beowulf the warrior, or aglæca, and the mother of Grendel, the monster, the aglæca-wif. Constance Grady, Vox, "The 16 best books I read in 2018," 21 Dec. 2018 But with a few words, President Donald Trump obliterated the distinction. Rob Gillies, The Seattle Times, "Trump comments upend US approach to Huawei, trade talks," 12 Dec. 2018 The homelessness issue has achieved a special distinction in Los Angeles. Rick Hampson, USA TODAY, "In the second Gilded Age, the mansions get bigger, and the homeless get closer," 16 May 2018 That distinction goes to returning Auburn redshirt junior Jarrett Stidham, who earlier this week was projected as a first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Joseph Goodman, AL.com, "Time is now for QB Jarrett Stidham to be leader Auburn needs," 3 May 2018 That distinction goes to tiny 53047, which encompasses a 0.16-square-mile slice of the town of Lebanon in southern Dodge County. Bob Dohr, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "How wealthy is your community? A look at incomes by zip code in the Milwaukee suburbs," 18 Apr. 2018 That distinction goes to the host Lakers, who improved to 3-0 with Tuesday’s 16-4 win over league newcomer John Carroll. Glenn Graham, baltimoresun.com, "Boys lacrosse Game of the Week: No. 4 McDonogh at No. 2 Boys' Latin," 12 Apr. 2018 The distinction goes to Columbus, according to a report from 24/7 Wall Street. Bob Strickley, Cincinnati.com, "3 headlines you may have missed: Traffic probs, city growth, U.S. News likes us," 10 Apr. 2018 That distinction goes to the team’s offense, which outscored TAMU 23-4. Ethan Bauer, miamiherald, "This unsung junior pitcher could end up being the Florida Gators’ real ace | Miami Herald," 29 Mar. 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

11 Jan 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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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 complex dispute or argument

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