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The following is from The African Queen by C. S. Forester

When she was only a girl he had attained the wonderful, almost mystic distinction of the ministry, and was invested in her eyes with the superiority which that implied.

I looked up the dictionary and can't decide which one to be the meaning of 'distinction' here. Is it one of 'difference', 'eminence', and 'appearance'?

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    I would hazard that it is "eminence". – Nick Nov 24 '17 at 1:23
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It means that he attained a unique quality that made him eminent. I guess there isn't a single meaning here since the word distinction is quite broad, versatile, and flexible.

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I would say that it means difference (or separation). When Rose Sayer was a girl, her father being in the ministry (a preacher) separated him from other men (in her eyes), and made him different in an almost mystical way. I don't think that the Reverend Sayer was an eminent preacher in any way, although he was prepared to labour as a missionary in the heat of Africa.

distinction noun (DIFFERENCE) [ C or U ]

a difference between two similar things:

  • There's a clear distinction between the dialects spoken in the two regions.
  • This company makes no distinction between the sexes.

Cambridge Dictionary

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