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Distinction vs. Skill: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 2, 2023
Distinction refers to excellence that sets someone or something apart, while skill is the ability to do something well through training and practice.

Key Differences

Distinction is a noun that denotes a mark of honor or the state of being excellent and noted among others, whereas skill is a noun that implies an ability or proficiency learned and developed through practice.
A distinction could be an award received for high achievement, setting a person apart, while a skill is the specific capability or expertise that person has worked to acquire.
Distinction can imply a clear difference or contrast between things or people, showing uniqueness, while skill represents the practical application of knowledge or natural talent honed over time.
Distinction often carries a sense of prestige or recognition, for instance in academic distinction, whereas skill focuses more on practical competence and mastery of a task or field.
The term distinction can also imply a level of discriminating taste or judgment, whereas skill is the measure of one’s adeptness or dexterity in tasks, from cognitive to manual.

Comparison Chart


Recognition of excellence or difference
Ability acquired through practice


Often used in formal recognition
Applied in practical settings


Honor, difference, or discrimination
Competence, proficiency, expertise

Related to

Awards, honors, contrast
Training, practice, application


More abstract
More practical

Distinction and Skill Definitions


A recognition of excellence.
She graduated with the highest distinction.


Proficiency acquired through experience.
He honed his cooking skills at a culinary school.


A classification in terms of quality or status.
Their service is of a higher distinction.


A particular ability in a specialized field.
Her negotiation skill is unparalleled.


A notable difference between things.
There's a clear distinction between impressionism and realism.


A talent for performing tasks, especially physical or practical.
The craftsman's skill was evident in the beautiful cabinet.


A special honor or award.
He received a distinction for his humanitarian work.


The ability to do something well, expertise.
Carpentry is a skill that requires practice.


The ability to judge what is of high quality.
She has a distinction for fine art.


An ability that has been cultivated to perform a certain task.
Playing the piano is a skill that can be developed over time.


The act of distinguishing; differentiation
Economists making an ongoing distinction between domestic and foreign markets.


Proficiency, facility, or dexterity that is acquired or developed through training or experience
Painted with great skill.


The condition or fact of being dissimilar or distinct; difference
"the crucial distinction between education and indoctrination" (A. Bartlett Giamatti).


Is distinction always related to academic achievement?

No, distinction can relate to any field of excellence.

How does one acquire a skill?

A skill is acquired through practice, training, and experience.

Are distinctions tangible?

Distinctions can be tangible like medals or intangible like reputation.

Is distinction always positive?

Generally, yes, though it can also refer to a differentiation without value judgment.

Can distinctions be revoked?

Some distinctions can be revoked if the criteria are no longer met.

Are academic distinctions the same as honors?

Academic distinctions are a type of honor denoting high achievement.

Can skills be innate?

Skills are typically developed, though some may be based on innate talents.

Do distinctions require external validation?

Distinctions often involve recognition from others or external bodies.

Can someone have a distinction in skills?

Yes, one can have a distinction in skills, meaning high proficiency that sets them apart.

Does one need skills to achieve a distinction?

Often, yes, especially in fields where practical competence is assessed.

What defines a distinction?

A distinction is defined as recognition for excellence or a notable difference.

Can a skill be a distinction?

Yes, if a skill is particularly honed, it can be a distinction.

What does it mean to have a distinction in taste?

It means having a discriminating judgment for quality and refinement.

Are skills measurable?

Skills are often measurable through performance or proficiency tests.

Does a distinction imply rarity?

A distinction often implies rarity or exceptional quality.

Is expertise the same as skill?

Expertise is a high level of skill in a particular area.

Can skills be lost over time?

Without practice, skills can diminish.

Is skill limited to physical activities?

No, skill can be cognitive, technical, artistic, etc.

Do skills contribute to professional success?

Yes, skills are often crucial for professional development and success.

Can a skill be self-taught?

Yes, many skills can be self-taught or improved upon independently.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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