Definition of distinction in English:


Syllabification: dis·tinc·tion
Pronunciation: /disˈtiNGkSHən


  • 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.
More 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).

More definitions of distinction

Definition of distinction in:

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources

Word of the day coloratura
Pronunciation: ˌkələrəˈto͝orə
elaborate ornamentation of a vocal melody