Definition of distinction in English:

Share this entry


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
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.
2 [mass noun] Excellence 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, 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
Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.