Definition of distinction in English:

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Pronunciation: /dɪˈstɪŋ(k)ʃ(ə)n/


1A difference or contrast between similar things or people: there is a sharp distinction between domestic politics and international politics I was completely unaware of class distinctions
More example sentences
  • The most noticeable distinction (apart from various details of the skeleton) are the more forward position of the eyes.
  • In this debate, crucial distinctions are too often blurred.
  • The United States recently earned the dubious distinction of having the highest incarceration rate in the world.
difference, contrast, dissimilarity, dissimilitude, divergence, variance, variation;
division, separation, differentiation, contradistinction, discrimination, segregation, dividing line, gulf, gap, chasm
1.1 [mass noun] The separation of people or things into different groups according to their characteristics: high interest rates strike down, without distinction, small businesses and the unemployed
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  • Why draw arbitrary lines of distinction and value in different spheres of work?
  • So long as we agree about the marking, it is of no great consequence where we draw the line between pass and failure, or between the different levels of distinction.
  • As the man assembles without distinction samples from different areas, each track feeds on combined atmospheres.
2 [mass noun] Excellence that sets someone or something apart from others: a novelist of distinction
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  • Today Châteauneuf remains in good standing, crafting some excellent wines of real distinction and merit.
  • They act as a showcase for the farming sector and they have fulfilled that role with flair and distinction for many years.
  • The Supreme Court, in other words, has seldom been a showcase of intellectual distinction.
importance, significance, note, consequence, account;
renown, fame, celebrity, prominence, eminence, pre-eminence, repute, reputation, honour, prestige, status, high standing, illustriousness, name, mark, rank;
merit, worth, greatness, excellence, glory, quality, superiority
2.1 [count noun] A decoration or honour awarded to someone: he gained the highest distinction awarded for excellence in photography
More example sentences
  • Should we now admit who we are and have our merits and distinctions and even honours awards taken away?
  • This was the first year the school had the Leaving Cert Applied option and many pupils were awarded merits and distinctions.
  • She was awarded two distinctions, one for Pianoforte Playing and one for getting 100% in Theory and Harmony.
honour, credit, excellence, merit
2.2 [count noun] A grade in an examination denoting excellence: she gained a distinction in her diploma Compare with merit.
More example sentences
  • University admissions requirements will vary from institution to institution, but are likely to expect either a merit or a distinction grade.
  • Our other two applicants for higher grade distinctions were not so lucky on this attempt, but better luck next time lads.
  • Her music went from strength to strength and she achieved Grade 8 distinctions in both singing and piano.


distinction without a difference

An artificially created distinction where no real difference exists.


Middle English (in the sense 'subdivision, category'): via Old French from Latin distinctio(n-), from the verb distinguere (see distinguish).

Words that rhyme with distinction

extinction, intinction

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: dis|tinc¦tion

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