Definition of distinction in English:



  • 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’
    • ‘Here I will generally use the term trademark and ignore the subtle distinctions of service marks and trade names.’
    • ‘I'm here to remind you that these are arbitrary distinctions.’
    • ‘But a critical distinction needs to be drawn between physical and mental fatigue.’
    • ‘He found that even tiny status distinctions matter.’
    • ‘The dominant colonial obsession with race and racial distinctions of all kinds sometimes fed into the ideas of the dominated.’
    • ‘The United States recently earned the dubious distinction of having the highest incarceration rate in the world.’
    • ‘Also, a fairly sharp distinction is drawn between theory and research.’
    • ‘They seek to construct parochial and arbitrary distinctions between the civic and the human community.’
    • ‘There is an important conceptual distinction between the evolutionary response to natural selection and phenotypic selection.’
    • ‘The most noticeable distinction (apart from various details of the skeleton) are the more forward position of the eyes.’
    • ‘Many of the proposed fine distinctions seem relatively unimportant in routine neurological practice.’
    • ‘In this debate, crucial distinctions are too often blurred.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, those concepts elide some important distinctions.’
    • ‘There is a subtle academic distinction between decisions under Risk and decisions under Uncertainty.’
    • ‘In most parts of the North India, however, no such sharp distinction exists.’
    • ‘The poetic voice progressively splinters into cacophony, in which the gender distinctions progressively collapse.’
    • ‘Maintaining a clear distinction between conjecture and certainty is especially important in such a conceptually difficult subject.’
    • ‘And the same people are led to believe Muslims have no caste distinction.’
    • ‘She also points out that a critical moral distinction in play here is between intended and unintended killing.’
    • ‘Additional educational efforts to increase participants' abilities to recognize subtle distinctions between these 2 tumors may be of benefit.’
    difference, contrast, dissimilarity, dissimilitude, divergence, variance, variation
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    1. 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’
      • ‘Distance and distinction mark ethnic relations within the country.’
      • ‘Though she was clearly talented, Locke lacked distinction.’
      • ‘As the man assembles without distinction samples from different areas, each track feeds on combined atmospheres.’
      • ‘However, what the majority of developments lacked was a sense of character and distinction.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘For these critics, public indifference was a mark of distinction, a sign of the artist's refusal to pander to the degraded tastes of the crowd.’
      • ‘Why draw arbitrary lines of distinction and value in different spheres of work?’
      • ‘Give the beer a rest for one night and enjoy a beverage with character and distinction.’
      • ‘These characteristics demonstrate considerable variation, and distinction among the three varieties in the field is difficult.’
      • ‘Another sign of distinction is the ability to see familiar things differently.’
  • 2Excellence that sets someone or something apart from others.

    ‘a novelist of distinction’
    • ‘They act as a showcase for the farming sector and they have fulfilled that role with flair and distinction for many years.’
    • ‘Of course I would, because I think he's very capable and could serve with great distinction in a number of different positions.’
    • ‘Today Châteauneuf remains in good standing, crafting some excellent wines of real distinction and merit.’
    • ‘He carried out a Funeral Directing Business, with panache and distinction.’
    • ‘They lend European cinema artistic distinction but not industrial security.’
    • ‘He had as his teacher a scholar of more than usual ability and distinction.’
    • ‘He has served the All India Radio for several years with distinction.’
    • ‘Several played with distinction at the recent Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand, where Taibu was I believe player of the tournament.’
    • ‘Many historians have entered politics, several attaining positions of distinction.’
    • ‘Dharma Kumar was born in March 1928 into a family of unusual distinction and character.’
    • ‘The recent Golden Globe winner again shows her gift for giving distinction to characters who seem born to be pitied or dismissed.’
    • ‘The Moscow-trained and London-based violinist Grigory Zhislin is an artist of distinction and imagination.’
    • ‘The Supreme Court, in other words, has seldom been a showcase of intellectual distinction.’
    • ‘Ironically the multifarious Man Ray yearned for greatness as a painter - posterity has not accorded him this distinction.’
    • ‘She was a woman of great distinction who left behind a large body of excellent work.’
    • ‘They seemed to fade into the background, as you would expect from a servant, and didn't seem to crave power or distinction.’
    • ‘But that doesn't deduct from the artistry and distinction that beams from the rest of the film.’
    • ‘In 1877 artistic ambition led Munger to England to search for new styles and international artistic distinction.’
    • ‘A poet's distinction lies in their ability to get to a deep level of insight very quickly.’
    • ‘The parents of our country need to give more of character and distinction to the lives of their children.’
    importance, significance, note, consequence, account
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    1. 2.1A decoration or honor awarded to someone in recognition of outstanding achievement.
      ‘he gained the highest distinction awarded for excellence in photography’
      • ‘Her performance at university was outstanding and she was awarded a distinction and received the Sir William Young Gold Medal.’
      • ‘In 1989, he graduated with honours and distinctions from the Jamaica College of Arts.’
      • ‘As a junior fellow at the RNCM, he won the first ever distinction awarded for conducting in May 1999.’
      • ‘After working hard he was awarded a distinction in surgery and was duly offered the job.’
      • ‘He'd been given a retrospective at the Louvre, the first living artist to be awarded such a distinction.’
      • ‘He was awarded the distinction last year but wanted to wait until there was a presentation ceremony at Rideau Hall.’
      • ‘He was awarded a diploma with distinction at the end of the gruelling course.’
      • ‘Anne gained many prizes and distinctions at school and university.’
      • ‘She was awarded two distinctions, one for Pianoforte Playing and one for getting 100% in Theory and Harmony.’
      • ‘She recently was awarded a master of music with distinction from the Royal Scottish Academy.’
      • ‘She earned the Chair's Scholar distinction, an award offered to one student in the entire physics and astronomy graduating class.’
      • ‘He was awarded with three distinctions for his City and Guilds Photography on selected themes and we wish him all the best for the future.’
      • ‘This was the first year the school had the Leaving Cert Applied option and many pupils were awarded merits and distinctions.’
      • ‘After obtaining her honours and master's degrees with distinction, she went to study at the University of Pretoria where she completed a PhD.’
      • ‘Should we now admit who we are and have our merits and distinctions and even honours awards taken away?’
      • ‘At the same time, however, you've got to award them a high distinction for Politics 101 - Know Your Constituency.’
      • ‘His direction of the film shot him to new prominence, and the dual distinction of awards at Cannes and the Sundance Film Festival.’
      • ‘She also holds a master's degree, with distinction, in operations research from the Naval Postgraduate School.’
      • ‘His bright intellect shone through and he completed his Leaving Certificate with distinction.’
      • ‘He was awarded the final school certificate with a distinction in 1849.’
      honour, credit, excellence, merit
      View synonyms
    2. 2.2Recognition of outstanding achievement, such as on an examination.
      ‘I made a distinction in Greek’
      Compare with merit
      • ‘University admissions requirements will vary from institution to institution, but are likely to expect either a merit or a distinction grade.’
      • ‘Her music went from strength to strength and she achieved Grade 8 distinctions in both singing and piano.’
      • ‘The government is also dropping plans for distinction grades at A-level.’
      • ‘Our other two applicants for higher grade distinctions were not so lucky on this attempt, but better luck next time lads.’
      • ‘Out of the 30 candidates up for grading 26 achieved a distinction pass which is over 85 per cent.’
      • ‘At the time, he became the only student in Britain to gain three distinctions in the first year of his professional exams.’
      • ‘Ms Samreen, a student of Hakim Ajmal Khan Girl's Senior Secondary School, passed her secondary examination with distinction.’
      • ‘Roweena and Hannah both achieved distinction grades.’
      • ‘Hardy showed precocity with arithmetic and passed examinations with distinction in mathematics and Latin at Cranleigh School.’
      • ‘He said that Jim had been awarded a distinction for Grade 5 Drum Kit (Rock-school) gaining 89 per cent.’
      • ‘She received a distinction and merit in the exams and was presented with a certificate by college principal Dr Tom Johnson.’
      • ‘A few years later, Dr Mayosi was the top matriculant in the Transkei, gaining distinctions in 4 subjects.’
      • ‘A talented flautist has been awarded a distinction in a Grade 8 music exam, aged just 11.’
      • ‘She graduated with a National Certificate in Business Studies, having achieved first place in her class and a distinction in her final examinations.’
      • ‘In addition to her A-levels, Becky also took an extension examination in Latin, which was awarded a distinction.’


  • distinction without a difference

    • An artificially created distinction where no real difference exists.

      • ‘The distinction between voluntary and compulsory is a distinction without a difference.’
      • ‘The first point strikes me as a distinction without a difference.’
      • ‘The practical upshot is much the same, of course, so you could argue that it's a distinction without a difference.’
      • ‘So whether he uses his weapons against us or someone else does 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.’
  • 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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘In fact, he has the distinction of having given me my toughest penance in my seven years in the Church - an entire rosary!’
      • ‘Johnson has the distinction of being one of the longest-serving African-Americans in White House history.’
      • ‘After breaking into the spotlight over 30 years ago, Neil Young has the distinction of still remaining relevant.’
      • ‘The former Blue Devil has the distinction of being the only individual to play on two different teams in an NCAA Championship game.’
      • ‘The show celebrates its 60th year this year and has the distinction of never once missing a show throughout its history.’
      • ‘This particular message has the distinction of also containing the best spam-sender name I've seen so far.’
      • ‘The park has the distinction of being simultaneously a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve’
      • ‘Ms. 45 has the distinction of being considered a sort of feminist exploitation film.’


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