1. a change that makes something no longer true or accurate
2. a change in the way something looks, sounds or behaves so that it becomes strange or difficult to recognize
Origin and usage
The word distortion comes from the Latin word ‘distortionem’, which itself comes from ‘distorquere’ meaning ‘twist different ways’. It first came into use in English during the 1580s.
Distortion is a word that refers to the ways in which things can get confused or changed until they are hard to recognize. A melted crayon, a deflated balloon, a CD or DVD with scratches that no longer plays correctly — these things have all been affected by distortion. Other examples of distortion are things like your reflection in a broken mirror or the sound of your voice underwater.
A person’s sense of time can also be impacted by distortion. In fact, according to a recent study in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, a distorted perception of the passage of time can be a strong indicator of a person’s level of risk for social media addiction.
The study involved 274 university students with active social media accounts. The students were asked to complete an online survey that also blocked their access to social media. The survey took less than 30 minutes to complete, but according to some of the students’ perception the survey took much longer. This time distortion was a significant marker of those students’ risk for social media addiction.
“Even when the east excited me most, even when I was keenly aware of its superiority to the broad, sprawling, swollen towns beyond the Ohio, with their interminable inquisitions which only spared children and the very old — even then it had always for me a quality of distortion.”
(F. Scott Fitzgerald)
View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.