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  1. an act or instance of discriminating, or of making a distinction.
  2. treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit: racial and religious intolerance and discrimination.
  3. the power of making fine distinctions; discriminating judgment: She chose the colors with great discrimination.
  4. Archaic. something that serves to differentiate.

Origin of discrimination

1640–50; < Latin discrīminātiōn- (stem of discrīminātiō) a distinguishing. See discriminate, -ion
Related formsdis·crim·i·na·tion·al, adjectivean·ti·dis·crim·i·na·tion, adjectivenon·dis·crim·i·na·tion, nounpre·dis·crim·i·na·tion, nounself-dis·crim·i·na·tion, noun

Synonyms for discrimination

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Historical Examples of discrimination

British Dictionary definitions for discrimination


  1. unfair treatment of a person, racial group, minority, etc; action based on prejudice
  2. subtle appreciation in matters of taste
  3. the ability to see fine distinctions and differences
  4. electronics the selection of a signal having a particular frequency, amplitude, phase, etc, effected by the elimination of other signals by means of a discriminator
Derived Formsdiscriminational, adjective
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for discrimination

1640s, "the making of distinctions," from Late Latin discriminationem (nominative discriminatio), noun of action from past participle stem of discriminare (see discriminate). Especially in a prejudicial way, based on race, 1866, American English. Meaning "discernment" is from 1814.

It especially annoys me when racists are accused of 'discrimination.' The ability to discriminate is a precious facility; by judging all members of one 'race' to be the same, the racist precisely shows himself incapable of discrimination. [Christopher Hitchens]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper