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

Synonyms & Antonyms for discriminate

Synonyms

difference, differentiate, discern, distinguish, secern, separate

Antonyms

confuse, mistake, mix (up)

Visit the Thesaurus 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

The findings raise questions about the security of our most private information in an age where employers, insurers and advertisers can use data to discriminate or target certain categories of people. Marie C. Baca, Washington Post, "These apps may have told Facebook about the last time you had sex," 10 Sep. 2019 The findings raise questions about the security of the most private information in an age when employers, insurers and advertisers can use data to discriminate or target certain categories of people. Anchorage Daily News, "Apps may tell Facebook about last time users had sex, study finds," 10 Sep. 2019 Licensing agreements between SiriusXM satellite radio and record labels might pay songs differently, but licensing deals don’t discriminate by song length. Glenn Peoples, Billboard, "How Much Does Song Length Matter for Artists' Revenue?," 28 Aug. 2019 The Labor Department proposed a rule that would allow more federal contractors to base employment decisions on religion, which rights advocates said could be used to discriminate against workers for all manner of reasons. SFChronicle.com, "ICYMI: Lolli & Pops bankruptcy; Berkshire adds more Amazon," 16 Aug. 2019 Human rights activists fear these could be used to discriminate against minorities and this will be made easier because, under Supreme Court rules, individuals are allowed to legally challenge another’s citizenship. New York Times, "India Plans Big Detention Camps for Migrants. Muslims Are Afraid.," 14 Aug. 2019 Airbnb has settled a lawsuit brought by three Oregon women who alleged the site allowed vacation rental owners who use the site to discriminate against customers based on race. oregonlive.com, "Airbnb settles Oregon discrimination suit," 13 Aug. 2019 The latter court currently is conducting an inquiry into whether the citizenship question was intended to discriminate against Hispanics, an allegation the Justice Department denies. Sadie Gurman, WSJ, "Census Case Judge Rejects Trump Plan to Switch Legal Team," 9 July 2019 Our policies have always prohibited advertisers from using our tools to discriminate. Ariana Tobin, ProPublica, "New York Is Investigating Whether Facebook Lets Advertisers Discriminate," 5 July 2019

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

Listen to Our Podcast about discriminate

Statistics for discriminate

Last Updated

18 Oct 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for discriminate

The first known use of discriminate was in 1615

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for discriminate

discriminate

verb

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 discrimination (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

tired or exhausted

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Where in the World? A Quiz

  • peter bruegel tower of babel painting
  • What language does pajama come from?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

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!