discriminate

verb dis·crim·i·nate \ dis-ˈkri-mə-ˌnāt \
Updated on: 16 Nov 2017

Definition of discriminate

discriminated; discriminating
transitive verb
1 a : 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
1 a : 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

discriminate was our Word of the Day on 11/04/2011. Hear the podcast!

Examples of discriminate in a Sentence

  1. The school is not allowed to discriminate.

  2. the human eye can discriminate between very slight gradations of color

Recent Examples of discriminate from the Web

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.

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."

Origin and Etymology of discriminate

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

discriminate Synonyms


DISCRIMINATE Defined for English Language Learners

discriminate

verb

Definition of discriminate for English Language Learners

  • : to unfairly treat a person or group of people differently from other people or groups

  • : to notice and understand that one thing is different from another thing : to recognize a difference between things


DISCRIMINATE Defined for Kids

discriminate

verb dis·crim·i·nate \ di-ˈskri-mə-ˌnāt \

Definition of discriminate for Students

discriminated; discriminating
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.

Medical Dictionary

discriminate

verb dis·crim·i·nate \ dis-ˈkrim-ə-ˌnāt \

medical Definition of discriminate

discriminated; discriminating
transitive verb
: to respond selectively to (a stimulus)
intransitive verb
: to respond selectively
  • the capacity of organisms to discriminate
  • —J. A. Swets

Law Dictionary

discriminate

intransitive verb dis·crim·i·nate \ dis-ˈkri-mə-ˌnāt \

legal Definition of discriminate

discriminated; discriminating
: 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

discrimination

play \dis-ˌkri-mə-ˈnā-shən\ noun


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