discriminate

verb
dis·​crim·​i·​nate | \ di-ˈskri-mə-ˌnāt How to pronounce discriminate (audio) \
discriminated; discriminating

Definition of discriminate

transitive verb

1a : to mark or perceive the distinguishing or peculiar features of Depth perception may be defined as the ability to appreciate or discriminate the third dimension …— H. G. Armstrong
b : distinguish, differentiate discriminate hundreds of colors
2 : to distinguish by discerning or exposing differences : to recognize or identify as separate and distinct discriminate right from wrong especially : to distinguish from another like object discriminate the individual voices in the choir

intransitive verb

1a : to make a distinction discriminate among historical sources discriminates between literary fiction and popular fiction
b : to use good judgment
2 : to make a difference in treatment or favor on a basis other than individual merit discriminate in favor of your friends discriminate against a certain nationality

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

Although many methods or motives for discriminating are unfair and undesirable (or even illegal), the verb itself has a neutral history. English speakers borrowed it from the past participle of the Latin verb discriminare, itself from the verb discernere, meaning "to distinguish between." "Discernere," in turn, was formed by combining the prefix dis- and cernere ("to sift"). Other descendants of "discernere" include "discern" and "discernible" (as you no doubt guessed), "discreet," and "indiscretion." In addition, the root "cernere" gives us "concern," "certain," "decree," and even "secret."

Examples of discriminate in a Sentence

The school is not allowed to discriminate. the human eye can discriminate between very slight gradations of color
Recent Examples on the Web All have shown that police were more likely to discriminate against young people based on skin color. Colette Davidson, The Christian Science Monitor, "Does ‘human rights champion’ France live up to its ideals at home?," 11 Dec. 2020 The Trump administration has issued new guidance on religious exemptions for federal contractors that critics say grants them carte blanche to discriminate against LGBTQ workers, women, religious minorities and others. NBC News, "Trump's new religious exemptions for employers an invitation to discriminate, critics say," 8 Dec. 2020 Justice says Facebook’s hiring and recruitment practices discriminate against American citizens in favor of foreign H-1B visa holders seeking green cards. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "A Weak Visa Case Against Facebook," 6 Dec. 2020 The Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn argued that the limits in the order are unfair and discriminate against houses of worship. Shannon Bream, Fox News, "Cuomo admin in Supreme Court brief argues NY virus rules more lenient to churches than secular events," 19 Nov. 2020 According to the lawsuit, Great Northern claims that the Oregon Cares Fund stands to discriminate against its owners on the basis of their race. Tim Gruver, Washington Examiner, "Oregon state relief fund hit by lawsuit from logging company citing racial discrimination," 3 Nov. 2020 What is the need for discrimination in the name of diversity in the university system, if not to discriminate against Asian Americans? The Editors, National Review, "Californians Should Vote Against Legalizing Race Discrimination," 29 Oct. 2020 But some who live in Heritage Park say the rules and design standards followed by the board infringe on their rights as homeowners, discriminate against non-English speakers and are out of touch for an area of the city with a complicated past. Miguel Otárola, Star Tribune, "Fines, fees and fear: Minneapolis neighbors speak out against 'harassing' homeowners association," 14 Sep. 2020 Software engineers can inadvertently discriminate against people. Dina Bass, Bloomberg.com, "What Are Algorithms and Are They Biased Against Me?," 11 Dec. 2020

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

See More

First Known Use of discriminate

1615, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

History and Etymology for discriminate

Latin discriminatus, past participle of discriminare, from discrimin-, discrimen distinction, from discernere to distinguish between — more at discern

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about discriminate

Time Traveler for discriminate

Time Traveler

The first known use of discriminate was in 1615

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about discriminate

Statistics for discriminate

Last Updated

28 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Discriminate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discriminate. Accessed 23 Jan. 2021.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for discriminate

discriminate

verb
How to pronounce discriminate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of discriminate

: to unfairly treat a person or group of people differently from other people or groups
somewhat formal : to notice and understand that one thing is different from another thing : to recognize a difference between things

discriminate

verb
dis·​crim·​i·​nate | \ di-ˈskri-mə-ˌnāt How to pronounce discriminate (audio) \
discriminated; discriminating

Kids Definition of discriminate

1 : to unfairly treat a person or group differently from other people or groups It is against the law to discriminate on the basis of race.
2 : to be able to tell the difference between things He can discriminate among the birds by their calls.

discriminate

verb
dis·​crim·​i·​nate | \ dis-ˈkrim-ə-ˌnāt How to pronounce discriminate (audio) \
discriminated; discriminating

Medical Definition of discriminate

transitive verb

: to respond selectively to (a stimulus)

intransitive verb

: to respond selectively the capacity of organisms to discriminate— J. A. Swets

Keep scrolling for more

discriminate

intransitive verb
dis·​crim·​i·​nate | \ dis-ˈkri-mə-ˌnāt How to pronounce discriminate (audio) \
discriminated; discriminating

Legal Definition of discriminate

: to make a difference in treatment or favor on a basis other than individual merit especially : to make a difference in treatment on a basis prohibited by law (as national origin, race, sex, religion, age, or disability) — see also bona fide occupational qualification, equal protection, reverse discrimination, suspect class, Civil Rights Act of 1964

Other Words from discriminate

discrimination \ dis-​ˌkri-​mə-​ˈnā-​shən How to pronounce discriminate (audio) \ noun

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on discriminate

What made you want to look up discriminate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Slippery Words Quiz—Changing with the Times

  • ducreux self portrait yawning
  • What is an earlier meaning of nice?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!