[dis-tl-ey-shuh n]


the volatilization or evaporation and subsequent condensation of a liquid, as when water is boiled in a retort and the steam is condensed in a cool receiver.
the purification or concentration of a substance, the obtaining of the essence or volatile properties contained in it, or the separation of one substance from another, by such a process.
a product of distilling; distillate.
the act or fact of distilling or the state of being distilled.

Origin of distillation

1350–1400; Middle English distillacioun (< Anglo-French) < Latin distillātiōn- (stem of distillātiō), equivalent to distillāt(us) distillate + -iōn- -ion
Related formsdis·til·la·to·ry [dih-stil-uh-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee] /dɪˈstɪl əˌtɔr i, -ˌtoʊr i/, dis·til·la·tive [dih-stil-uh-tiv] /dɪˈstɪl ə tɪv/, adjectivenon·dis·til·la·tion, nounre·dis·til·la·tion, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for distillation

purification, refining, cleansing

Examples from the Web for distillation

Contemporary Examples of distillation

Historical Examples of distillation

British Dictionary definitions for distillation



the act, process, or product of distilling
the process of evaporating or boiling a liquid and condensing its vapour
purification or separation of mixture by using different evaporation rates or boiling points of their componentsSee also fractional distillation
the process of obtaining the essence or an extract of a substance, usually by heating it in a solvent
another name for distillate (def. 1)
a concentrated essence
Derived Formsdistillatory, 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 distillation

late 14c., "process of distilling," from Late Latin distillationem (nominative distillatio), noun of action from past participle stem of distillare (see distill). Meaning "product of distilling" is from 1590s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

distillation in Medicine




The evaporation and subsequent collection of a liquid by condensation as a means of purification.
The extraction of the volatile components of a mixture by the condensation and collection of the vapors that are produced as the mixture is heated.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

distillation in Science



A method of separating a substance that is in solution from its solvent or of separating a liquid from a mixture of liquids having different boiling points. The liquid to be separated is evaporated (as by boiling), and its vapor is then collected after it condenses. Distillation is used to separate fresh water from a salt solution and gasoline from petroleum.♦ The condensed vapor, which is the purified liquid, is called the distillate.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

distillation in Culture


In chemistry, the separating of the constituents of a liquid by boiling it and then condensing the vapor that results. Distillation can be used to purify water or other substances, or to remove one component from a complex mixture, as when gasoline is distilled from crude oil or alcohol from a mash. When water is purified by distillation, it is boiled in a container, and the steam is sent into cooling tubes. The steam is condensed and then collected as purified water in a second container. The impurities in the water are left behind in the first container and can be discarded.


Figuratively, “distillation” is the process of retaining the essential features or components of something while removing nonessentials: “This book represents knowledge distilled from decades of research.”
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.