Definition of distinction in English:

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Pronunciation: /dəˈstiNG(k)SH(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, variance, variation;
division, differentiation, dividing line, gulf, gap
1.1The separation of things or people into different groups according to their attributes or characteristics: these procedures were to be applied to all births, without distinction
More example sentences
  • 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.
2Excellence that sets someone or something apart from others: a novelist of distinction
More example sentences
  • 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;
renown, fame, celebrity, prominence, eminence, preeminence, repute, reputation;
merit, worth, greatness, excellence, quality
2.1A decoration or honor awarded to someone in recognition of outstanding achievement: 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.
honor, credit, excellence, merit
2.2Recognition of outstanding achievement, such as on an examination: I made a distinction in Greek 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.
Example sentences
  • The distinction between voluntary and compulsory is a distinction without a difference.
  • His not having ‘named’ them is a distinction without a difference, apparently the only kind he knows how to make.
  • The first point strikes me as a distinction without a difference.

have the distinction of

Be different from others of a similar type by virtue of a notable characteristic or achievement: pinto beans have the distinction of being one of the quickest beans to cook
More example sentences
  • He had the distinction of serving at different times in all three top positions within the Tinahely club - chairman, secretary and treasurer.
  • You may have the distinction of just having filed the last report on what either of these men did 35-years-ago on this broadcast.
  • The show celebrates its 60th year this year and has the distinction of never once missing a show throughout its history.


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

Syllabification: dis·tinc·tion

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