Distinctio (etymologically from Latin, literally “differentiation”), is a figure of definition which consists in eliminating ambiguous meaning of a word or phrase by explicitly specifying explanation of such word(s).

For example, “The device is excellent, particularly its user interface. By user interface, I mean its ease of accessibility, and friendly software.”

Sometimes, words—especially words that connote to abstract qualities—are semantically dynamic in any given context; this is where the figure, distinctio, comes into play, used as a means to achieve clarity. This clarification may be the difference between a point perspicuously stated, and an ambigious point that is likely to be interpreted by one’s audience to mean something else.

Notable Examples

  1. “The Late Professor Chinua Achebe was an erudite scholar, I mean he was very intelligent and knowledgeable in his discipline
  2. “I think at this point, for sake of keeping up with the competition, it is important we take a recess—by recess, I mean taking a short break, to refresh and come up stronger
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