Distinction vs. Distinguish: What's the Difference?
"Distinction" is a noun referring to a difference or excellence, while "distinguish" is a verb meaning to recognize or differentiate between things.
"Distinction" and "distinguish" both revolve around the concept of recognizing differences or separateness. The word "distinction," as a noun, signifies a difference or contrast between similar things. It can also mean a special honor or recognition. For instance, an individual can be given an award with distinction, pointing to the excellence of their achievements.
"Distinguish," conversely, is a verb. It carries the action of recognizing or treating someone or something as different. When one is able to distinguish between two similar things, they can tell them apart. For example, a wine connoisseur might distinguish between wines from different regions based on taste.
In a broader sense, "distinction" can denote a level of excellence or prestige. An institution can be known for its distinction in a particular field, marking its superior reputation. On the other hand, "distinguish" goes beyond the realm of identification. One can also be distinguished by standing out or being notable in a certain area.
Notably, "distinction" often has a positive connotation, referring to honor or eminence. However, "distinguish" is more neutral, focusing on the act of differentiating or standing out without necessarily implying superiority or inferiority. To sum up, while "distinction" encapsulates the state or condition of being set apart or superior, "distinguish" conveys the act of perceiving or pointing out differences.
Part of Speech
A difference, contrast, or excellence
The action of recognizing or differentiating
Often positive, denoting honor or superiority
Neutral, about perceiving differences
Use in a Sentence
Can be the subject or object
Acts as the main verb in a sentence
Describes a state or condition
Describes an action
Distinction and Distinguish Definitions
A special honor or recognition.
He received a medal of distinction for his service.
To discern with the senses or intellect.
He distinguished a faint sound in the distance.
A characteristic feature or quality differentiating someone or something.
Her voice had a distinction that was unforgettable.
To recognize or treat as different.
She could easily distinguish the fake from the real diamond.
A difference or contrast between similar things.
The distinction between right and wrong is crucial.
To classify or categorize.
The biologist distinguished the species based on their traits.
A rank or status of honor and prestige.
He was a lawyer of great distinction in the community.
To perceive or indicate differences.
It's hard to distinguish between the twins.
The act of distinguishing; differentiation
Economists making an ongoing distinction between domestic and foreign markets.
To make oneself prominent or noteworthy.
His skills distinguish him from other players.
The condition or fact of being dissimilar or distinct; difference
"the crucial distinction between education and indoctrination" (A. Bartlett Giamatti).
To perceive as being different or distinct
Can you distinguish a pattern in this behavior?.
A distinguishing factor, attribute, or characteristic
A legal system blind to distinctions of race, gender, and class.
To perceive distinctly; discern
The lookout distinguished the masts of ships on the horizon.
Excellence or eminence, as of performance, character, or reputation
A diplomat of distinction.
To demonstrate or describe as being different or distinct
A scientist who distinguished four species of the plant.
A special quality or accomplishment conferring uniqueness or honor
Has the distinction of being the tallest in his class.
To be an identifying characteristic of; make noticeable or different
These spices distinguish this style of Asian cooking.
Recognition of achievement or superiority; honor
Graduated with distinction.
To cause (oneself) to be respected or eminent
They have distinguished themselves as dedicated social workers.
An award or honor given to someone for outstanding achievement
Won many distinctions while in the military.
To perceive or indicate differences; discriminate
Can the child distinguish between right and wrong?.
That which distinguishes; a single occurrence of a determining factor or feature, the fact of being divided; separation, discrimination.
To recognize someone or something as different from others based on its characteristics.
The act of distinguishing, discriminating; discrimination.
There is a distinction to be made between resting and slacking.
To see someone or something clearly or distinctly.
Specifically, a feature that causes someone or something to stand out as being better; a mark of honour, rank, eminence or excellence; being distinguished.
She had the distinction of meeting the Queen.
To make oneself noticeably different or better from others through accomplishments.
The soldier distinguished himself in combat and received a medal.
A marking off by visible signs; separation into parts; division.
The distinction of tragedy into acts was not known.
To make to differ.
The act of distinguishing or denoting the differences between objects, or the qualities by which one is known from others; exercise of discernment; discrimination.
To take away therefore that error, which confusion breedeth, distinction is requisite.
Not set apart from others by visible marks; to make distinctive or discernible by exhibiting differences; to mark off by some characteristic.
Not more distinguished by her purple vest,Than by the charming features of her face.
Milton has distinguished the sweetbrier and the eglantine.
That which distinguishes one thing from another; distinguishing quality; sharply defined difference; as, the distinction between real and apparent good.
The distinction betwixt the animal kingdom and the inferior parts of matter.
To separate by definition of terms or logical division of a subject with regard to difference; as, to distinguish sounds into high and low.
Moses distinguished the causes of the flood into those that belong to the heavens, and those that belong to the earth.
Estimation of difference; regard to differences or distinguishing circumstance.
Maids, women, wives, without distinction, fall.
To recognize or discern by marks, signs, or characteristic quality or qualities; to know and discriminate (anything) from other things with which it might be confounded; as, to distinguish the sound of a drum.
We are enabled to distinguish good from evil, as well as truth from falsehood.
Nor more can you distinguish of a man,Than of his outward show.
Conspicuous station; eminence; superiority; honorable estimation; as, a man of distinction.
Your country's own means of distinction and defense.
To constitute a difference; to make to differ.
Who distinguisheth thee?
A discrimination between things as different and distinct;
It is necessary to make a distinction between love and infatuation
To separate from others by a mark of honor; to make eminent or known; to confer distinction upon; - with by or for.
High status importance owing to marked superiority;
A scholar of great eminence
To make distinctions; to perceive the difference; to exercise discrimination; - with between; as, a judge distinguishes between cases apparently similar, but differing in principle.
A distinguishing quality;
It has the distinction of being the cheapest restaurant in town
To become distinguished or distinctive; to make one's self or itself discernible.
The little embryo . . . first distinguishes into a little knot.
A distinguishing difference;
He learned the distinction between gold and lead
Mark as different;
We distinguish several kinds of maple
An excellence that sets someone or something apart from others.
She graduated with distinction in her studies.
Detect with the senses;
The fleeing convicts were picked out of the darkness by the watchful prison guards
I can't make out the faces in this photograph
Be a distinctive feature, attribute, or trait; sometimes in a very positive sense;
His modesty distinguishes him form his peers
Make conspicuous or noteworthy
Identify as in botany or biology, for example
Is "distinction" always a positive term?
Often, "distinction" has a positive connotation, but it can neutrally refer to a difference or contrast.
Can "distinguish" imply a sense of superiority?
While "distinguish" mainly focuses on differentiation, it can imply prominence or noteworthiness in some contexts.
Can "distinction" be used to describe things and people?
Yes, "distinction" can describe both things (like features) and people (like honor).
Can a person hold multiple distinctions?
Yes, a person can have multiple distinctions, signifying various honors or differences.
Is there a passive form of "distinguish"?
Yes, e.g., "He is distinguished by his achievements."
Can institutions receive distinctions?
Yes, institutions can receive distinctions for their excellence or prominence in certain areas.
Does "distinguish" have synonyms?
Yes, synonyms include differentiate, discern, and separate, among others.
Can "distinction" be used in academic contexts?
Absolutely, students can graduate "with distinction" based on superior academic performance.
Can "distinction" relate to quality?
Yes, it can indicate a characteristic quality or feature setting someone/something apart.
Does "distinguish" always require two or more things for comparison?
Often it does, but not always. Someone can be "distinguished" by standing out in a field.
Is "distinguish" only about seeing differences?
No, "distinguish" can refer to perceiving differences through any sense or intellect.
How do I use "distinguish" in a sentence?
"Distinguish" can act as a verb, e.g., "She can distinguish flavors expertly."
Can "distinguish" imply skill or expertise?
Yes, the ability to distinguish finely can imply expertise, e.g., in taste testing or critical analysis.
Can I say "distinguish between" multiple items?
Yes, you can, e.g., "She could distinguish between the three types of tea."
Is "distinction" always visible?
No, distinctions can be in character, quality, reputation, or other non-physical traits.
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