(noun) Attaining status through competition (e.g., free market or standardized examination) by personal effort and accomplishment.


  1. Graduating from university with high marks.
  2. Professional success such as rising to the top of a company.
  3. Scoring high on the Graduate Record Exam or Law School Admissions Test.
  4. Winning a gold medal in the Olympics or scoring

Audio Pronunciation: (a·chieve·ment)

Download Audio Pronunciation: achievement.mp3

Usage Notes:

  • Plural: achievements
  • The difference of achievement in education among classes, ethnicities or races, and sexes is called the achievement gap.
  • Achievement is compared and contrasted to ascribed status.
  • Also called accomplishment.
  • Achievement used in a sentence:
    1. We look back at great artists from the past and marvel at their achievements.
    2. Athletes are praised for their achievements on the field.

Related Quotations:

  • “By depriving people of access to opportunities, for instance, discrimination often leads to lack of qualification for them. The involuntary ascribed and negatively evaluated categorical status that emerges from discrimination not only takes precedence over any achieved status but reduces the probability of such achievement, thereby lowering all life chances. Put simply, discrimination makes it more difficult for the objects of discrimination to develop merit and reduces the likelihood that their merit will e recognized and rewarded” (McNamee and Miller 2013:180).
  • “In the image of the American Dream, America is the land of opportunity. Presumably, if you work hard enough and are talented enough, you can overcome any obstacle and achieve success. No matter where you start out in life, the sky is ostensibly the limit. According to the promise implied by the American Dream, you can go as far as your talents and abilities can take you” (McNamee and Miller 2013:1).
  • “The feminist perspective assumes that gender is socially created, rather than determined by one’s biological inheritance, and that change is essential in order for people to achieve their human potential without limits based on gender. It also assumes that society reinforces social expectations through social learning, which is acquired through social institutions such as education, religion, and the political and economic structure of society” (Kendall 2006:18).

Additional Information:

Related Terms: 



Kendall, Diane. 2006. Sociology in Our Times: The Essentials. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.

McNamee, Stephen J., and Robert K. Miller. 2013. The Meritocracy Myth. 3rd. ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

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