We distinguish in order to separate or keep things apart which might otherwise be confounded.We discriminate with the further view of showing where in their differences consist. Hence discrimination must always be nice, particular, and exact, dissecting, as it were the things discriminated. distinction maybe exact or not, minute or tough, broad or nice.

I cannot really get what these explanations mean. Would anyone possibly show me their meaning, especially by some example?

Any help would be appreciated.

  • 2
    I'll try doing what you didn't ask: discriminate the two words the way I understand them, in simple words. Being able to "distinguish" is being able to "tell" that those things are different. To "discriminate" is to show such a difference or differences, intentionally, purposefully, explicitly. Sep 18 '14 at 10:05

I think the author refers to the word distinguish as having a meaning close to one of the following (from The Merriam Webster):

transitive verb

2 a : to mark as separate or different

b : to separate into kinds, classes, or categories

Whereas, he seems to be describing discriminate as

to notice and understand that one thing is different from another thing : to recognize a difference between things

So, in discriminate, the emphasis is put onto recognizing the very aspects that differentiate one group from another.

Whereas in distinguish , we don't elaborate on why they are different. We just state the fact that they are.

An example that denotes this particular meaning for discriminate would be:

'The attacks in Jordan, just like those before it in Indonesia, Egypt, Spain and the United States, demonstrate that terrorism does not discriminate by race, ethnicity or region. Instead, terrorists indiscriminately target those seeking to live a peaceful, loving and free life.' - Allyson Schwartz

And for distinguish, it would be:

'Education... has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading.' - G. M. Trevelyan

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