dif·​fer·​en·​ti·​ate | \ ˌdi-fə-ˈren(t)-shē-ˌāt How to pronounce differentiate (audio) \
differentiated; differentiating

Definition of differentiate

transitive verb

1 mathematics : to obtain the mathematical derivative (see derivative entry 1 sense 3) of
2 : to mark or show a difference in : constitute a contrasting element that distinguishes features that differentiate the twins how we differentiate ourselves from our competitors
3 : to develop differential or distinguishing characteristics in What differentiated a laborer from another man …— Sherwood Anderson
4 biology : to cause differentiation (see differentiation sense 3b) of in the course of development cells that are differentiated from stem cells
5 : to express the specific distinguishing quality of : discriminate differentiate poetry and prose

intransitive verb

1 : to recognize or give expression to a difference difficult to differentiate between the two
2 : to become distinct or different in character
3 biology : to undergo differentiation (see differentiation sense 3b) when the cells begin to differentiate

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Other Words from differentiate

differentiability \ ˌdi-​fə-​ˌren(t)-​sh(ē-​)ə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce differentiate (audio) \ noun
differentiable \ ˌdi-​fə-​ˈren(t)-​sh(ē-​)ə-​bəl How to pronounce differentiate (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for differentiate



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Examples of differentiate in a Sentence

The only thing that differentiates the twins is the color of their eyes. it was hard at first to differentiate between the two styles of music
Recent Examples on the Web With that being the case, the letters B, C and D can be hard to differentiate. Janet Carson, Arkansas Online, "Zooming our way through life!," 19 Jan. 2021 That lofty new status, Alworth says, came with new pressures to differentiate literature from the visual arts, with each becoming its own distinct and separate sphere. Washington Post, "Illustrated novels have a vibrant history. A rich new era may be upon us.," 22 Dec. 2020 The next episode will be from the perspective of Jules (Hunter Schafer), and creator Sam Levinson will probably follow a similar non-traditional format in order to differentiate these from the forthcoming season 2 sometime in 2021. Natalie Morin, refinery29.com, "After Euphoria‘s Emotional Rue Episode, When Are We Getting Jules’ Special?," 7 Dec. 2020 Without patterns of spots or stripes to differentiate between bears, the A.I. had to use other characteristics like the proximity between its eyes, nose, ears and forehead top to match a bear’s face with a name. Theresa Machemer, Smithsonian Magazine, "New A.I. Offers Facial Recognition for Grizzly Bears," 12 Nov. 2020 The stakes are heightened further by Mr. Biden’s pledge to differentiate his administration from Mr. Trump’s, in which representatives from corporate America and Wall Street held prominent posts, and conflicts of interest abounded. Eric Lipton, New York Times, "Progressives Press Biden to Limit Corporate Influence in Administration," 12 Nov. 2020 Using the traditional academic definition to differentiate the two types of stock—value stocks have low price-to-book-value ratios, growth stocks have high ones—value has lagged behind growth for nearly 14 years. Mark Hulbert, WSJ, "Value Stocks May Have Done a Lot Better Than You Think," 7 Nov. 2020 Here's a look at how to differentiate the two viruses. Ashley Shaffer, USA TODAY, "The one with the vaccines," 14 Oct. 2020 Ohio State did not differentiate between those players out for positive COVID-19 tests or contact tracing and which ones might be dealing with other injuries. Nathan Baird, cleveland, "Ohio State football’s Wyatt Davis on his knee injury: “I will be playing this week ... without a doubt”," 9 Dec. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'differentiate.' 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 differentiate

1814, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for differentiate

probably borrowed from Medieval Latin differentiātus, past participle of differentiāre "to distinguish" (New Latin in mathematical sense), verbal derivative of Latin differentia difference entry 1

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Time Traveler for differentiate

Time Traveler

The first known use of differentiate was in 1814

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Statistics for differentiate

Last Updated

24 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Differentiate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/differentiate. Accessed 24 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for differentiate


How to pronounce differentiate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of differentiate

: to make (someone or something) different in some way
: to see or state the difference or differences between two or more things


dif·​fer·​en·​ti·​ate | \ ˌdi-fə-ˈren-shē-ˌāt How to pronounce differentiate (audio) \
differentiated; differentiating

Kids Definition of differentiate

1 : to make or become different What differentiates the cars?
2 : to recognize or state the difference between I can't differentiate the two colors.


dif·​fer·​en·​ti·​ate | \ ˌdif-ə-ˈren-chē-ˌāt How to pronounce differentiate (audio) \
differentiated; differentiating

Medical Definition of differentiate

transitive verb

1 : to constitute a difference that distinguishes the history of the injury also differentiates these two fractures— J. S. Keene et al.
2 : to cause differentiation of in the course of development
3 : to discriminate or give expression to a specific difference that distinguishes quickly learned to differentiate sharp pain from dull pain
4 : to cause differentiation in (a specimen for microscopic examination) by staining

intransitive verb

1 : to recognize or express a difference differentiate between humans and the rest of the primates
2 : to undergo differentiation when a B cell matures, it differentiates into a plasma cell that secretes antibodies— R. C. Gallo

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