mis·​take | \ mə-ˈstāk How to pronounce mistake (audio) \
mistook\ mə-​ˈstu̇k How to pronounce mistake (audio) \; mistaken\ mə-​ˈstā-​kən How to pronounce mistake (audio) \; mistaking

Definition of mistake

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to blunder in the choice of mistook her way in the dark
2a : to misunderstand the meaning or intention of : misinterpret don't mistake me, I mean exactly what I said
b : to make a wrong judgment of the character or ability of The army's leaders mistook the strength of the enemy.
3 : to identify wrongly : confuse with another I mistook him for his brother

intransitive verb

: to be wrong you mistook when you thought I laughed at you— Thomas Hardy



Definition of mistake (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a wrong judgment : misunderstanding
2 : a wrong action or statement proceeding from faulty judgment, inadequate knowledge, or inattention

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Other Words from mistake


mistakenly adverb
mistaker noun

Choose the Right Synonym for mistake


error, mistake, blunder, slip, lapse mean a departure from what is true, right, or proper. error suggests the existence of a standard or guide and a straying from the right course through failure to make effective use of this. procedural errors mistake implies misconception or inadvertence and usually expresses less criticism than error. dialed the wrong number by mistake blunder regularly imputes stupidity or ignorance as a cause and connotes some degree of blame. diplomatic blunders slip stresses inadvertence or accident and applies especially to trivial but embarrassing mistakes. a slip of the tongue lapse stresses forgetfulness, weakness, or inattention as a cause. a lapse in judgment

Examples of mistake in a Sentence

Verb the auctioneer mistook my nod for a bid, and I ended up buying a painting I don't even like you seriously mistake me if you think I scare so easily Noun It would be a mistake to assume that we can rely on their help. There must be some mistake. The manuscript contains numerous spelling mistakes. There's a mistake in the schedule. “When does the movie start?” “At 8:00. No, wait—my mistake—it starts at 8:30.”
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Don't mistake Greiner's activity with Skubal and Mize as a personal catcher situation. Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press, "Why Tigers backup Grayson Greiner, not Wilson Ramos, is catching Tarik Skubal, Casey Mize," 6 Apr. 2021 The message is pointed: beware the whiplash of quick conversions and never mistake fervency for depth of commitment. Justin Taylor, Harper's Magazine, "Every True Pleasure Is a Secret," 16 Mar. 2021 Nobody should mistake Kathy Hochul for a conservative or even a moderate. Dan Mclaughlin, National Review, "Cuomo Is Wounded — and New York’s Political Climbers Smell Blood," 24 Mar. 2021 Unfortunately, many women can mistake perfectionist behaviors for work ethic or effort. NBC News, "Let go of perfection: 6 strategies for stopping the negative spin cycle," 10 Mar. 2021 Don’t mistake this for the simplistic argument that Prescott will now be asked to do it alone. David Moore, Dallas News, "How this new contract alters perceptions, shifts the narrative surrounding Dak Prescott," 9 Mar. 2021 Patrons couldn’t mistake the food served at Smoke Creek, 10166 S. 27th St., as the rich and savory smell of barbecue fills the small lobby — and greatly intensifies when the main door opens. Erik S. Hanley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "This new Oak Creek barbecue restaurant has been so busy it's run out of food three times," 26 Feb. 2021 And while the driving experience is nowhere near as precise and rewarding as many rivals, don’t mistake that for a lack of fun. Jeremy Taylor, Robb Report, "First Drive: Jaguar’s F-Type Heritage 60 Edition Is a Handful to Handle, but That’s Part of the Fun," 25 Feb. 2021 Look, nobody is going to mistake you for somebody who's not an environmentalist. NBC News, "Meet the Press - February 28, 2021," 28 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun There’s one mistake that’s particularly common and damaging. Alexander William Salter, National Review, "Don’t Mistake Accounting for Economics," 9 Apr. 2021 The Diocese of Down and Connor, which owns the cemetery, said the sale was a mistake, apologized and arranged for an archaeological study of the ground to discover the extent of the burials. NBC News, "Northern Ireland's hidden history: Archaeologist works to identify unmarked mass graves," 8 Apr. 2021 Still, this was one giant and unusual mistake — wasting precious ingredients, delaying production and potentially further eroding public trust in vaccines. Meredith Cohn, baltimoresun.com, "Mistakes happen, but the one made by a Baltimore COVID vaccine maker may hurt for a while," 2 Apr. 2021 Officials for the Los Angeles County courts have not said publicly what, if any, mistake was made by any employee of the courts system. Matthew Ormseth, Los Angeles Times, "After three weeks on the run, murder defendant wrongly released from jail is caught in Cypress," 29 Mar. 2021 Another common mistake that novice project managers may make is simply overlooking tasks during project planning (and schedule development). Dana Brownlee, Forbes, "First Time Managing A Big Project? Steer Clear Of These 5 Tragic Mistakes," 18 Mar. 2021 Samsung did not repeat last year’s pricing mistake, and the S21’s entry price is much better at $799. Chris Smith, BGR, "Samsung just unveiled three phones that will outsell the Galaxy S21," 17 Mar. 2021 The only mistake to make when cooking mushrooms is not cooking them long enough. Beth Dooley Special To The Star Tribune, Star Tribune, "The more mushrooms the merrier in this versatile medley," 17 Mar. 2021 On the surface, this may seem like a silly, innocent mistake. Sarah Durston, Scientific American, "We Need to Rename ADHD," 8 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mistake.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of mistake


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


1600, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for mistake

Verb and Noun

Middle English

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Time Traveler for mistake

Time Traveler

The first known use of mistake was in the 14th century

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Statistics for mistake

Last Updated

11 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Mistake.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mistake. Accessed 13 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for mistake



English Language Learners Definition of mistake

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to understand (something or someone) incorrectly
: to make a wrong judgment about (something)
: to identify (someone or something) incorrectly



English Language Learners Definition of mistake (Entry 2 of 2)

: something that is not correct : a wrong action, statement, or judgment


mis·​take | \ mə-ˈstāk How to pronounce mistake (audio) \
mistook\ mə-​ˈstu̇k \; mistaken\ mə-​ˈstā-​kən \; mistaking

Kids Definition of mistake

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : misunderstand It was easy to mistake her message.
2 : to fail to recognize correctly She mistook me for someone else.



Kids Definition of mistake (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a wrong judgment or action She was accused by mistake.
2 : something that is incorrect Correct the mistakes on your paper.



Legal Definition of mistake

1 : an unintentional error especially in legal procedure or form that does not indicate bad faith and that commonly warrants excuse or relief by the court the court's power to revise a judgment because of fraud, mistake, or irregularity a clerical mistake
2 : an erroneous belief: as
a : a state of mind that is not in accordance with the facts existing at the time a contract is made and that may be a ground for the rescission or reformation of the contract
b : a misconception at the time of an offense alleged by a defendant
mistake of fact
1 : a mistake regarding a fact or facts especially that significantly affects the performance of a contract
2 : a criminal defense that attempts to eliminate culpability on the ground that the defendant operated from an unintentional misunderstanding of fact rather than from a criminal purpose
mistake of law
: a mistake involving the misunderstanding or incorrect application of law in regard to an act, contract, transaction, determination, or state of affairs also : a criminal defense alleging such a mistake

Note: In both contract and criminal law a mistake of law is a weaker ground for relief or acquittal than a mistake of fact.

mutual mistake
: a mistake common to both parties to a contract who were in agreement about the purpose or terms of the contract reformed the contract because of a mutual mistake
unilateral mistake
: a mistake on the part of one party to a contract that is usually not a ground for rescission or reformation unless one party stands to profit or benefit improperly from the mistake

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