dis·​till | \ di-ˈstil How to pronounce distill (audio) \
variants: or less commonly distil
distilled; distilling

Definition of distill

transitive verb

1 : to let fall, exude, or precipitate (see precipitate entry 1 sense 3b) in drops or in a wet mist some caves are dry, others distill water from invisible rifts— Norman Douglas
2a : to purify or transform (a liquid) by successive evaporation and condensation : to subject to or transform by distillation distill molasses into rum
b : to obtain by or as if by distillation distill whiskey able to distill humor from personal loss
c : to extract the essence of : concentrate distill the experience into a poem

intransitive verb

1a : to fall or materialize in drops or in a fine moisture
b : to appear slowly or in small quantities at a time
2a : to undergo distillation
b : to perform distillation

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Synonyms for distill


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Examples of distill in a Sentence

They distill the whiskey from malted barley. He has perfectly distilled the meaning of the holiday into a poem.
Recent Examples on the Web One Ivy League admissions director describes how insiders distill recurrent themes to a word or two. Steven M. Galbraith, WSJ, "Charter Schools vs. Eco-Tours: It’s No Contest," 23 Dec. 2020 Aggregated, blinks do indeed distill full books to a 15-minute single shot; its text versions are readable in well under 15 minutes. John Warner, chicagotribune.com, "Blinkist promises readers shortcuts to buzzy books, but can you digest all those big ideas in just 15 minutes? John Warner gave it a try.," 1 Dec. 2020 Charlie Mackesy's lessons in kindness Through his whimsical sketches and his characters' simple yet sage advice, British artist Charlie Mackesy manages to distill what's most important about life, including kindness, empathy, perseverance and love. CBS News, "This week on "Sunday Morning" (November 29)," 28 Nov. 2020 But these international photographers’ dispatches, gathered in five different countries over 2020’s spring and summer, begin to distill the enormity and variety of the pandemic experience. National Geographic, "gone viral," 13 Oct. 2020 Keeping that in mind is how Van Halen the band managed to distill such pure rock radio sunshine. Keith Spera, NOLA.com, "Eddie Van Halen was a once-in-a-lifetime rock guitarist who made the impossible look easy," 6 Oct. 2020 Still, Abovitz never figured out how to distill the magic produced by the enormous prototypes into a viable product, former employees said. Fortune, "Magic Leap tried to create an alternate reality. Its founder was already in one," 26 Sep. 2020 Both films take a big social issue, distill it, and tell the story of real human cost. Kathleen Newman-bremang, refinery29.com, "This Ava DuVernay-Approved Film Has Critics Salivating," 22 Sep. 2020 The baths distill the dream at the core of inhabiting a city: to feel connected to something larger than yourself. Leslie Jamison, New York Times, "Is It Strange to Say I Miss the Bodies of Strangers?," 22 Sep. 2020

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

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

History and Etymology for distill

Middle English distillen, from Anglo-French distiller, from Late Latin distillare, alteration of Latin destillare, from de- + stillare to drip, from stilla drop

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Time Traveler for distill

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

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Statistics for distill

Last Updated

7 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Distill.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distill. Accessed 26 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for distill


How to pronounce distill (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of distill

: to make (a liquid) pure by heating it until it becomes a gas and then cooling it until it is a liquid again : to purify (a liquid) by distillation
: to make (a strong alcoholic drink) by using this process
: to take the most important parts of something and put them in a different and usually improved form


variants: also distil \ di-​ˈstil \
distilled; distilling

Kids Definition of distill

: to make (a liquid) pure by heating it until it becomes a gas and then cooling it until it becomes a liquid distill water

Other Words from distill

distiller noun


variants: also distil \ dis-​ˈtil How to pronounce distill (audio) \
distilled; distilling

Medical Definition of distill

transitive verb

1 : to subject to or transform by distillation
2 : to obtain by or as if by distillation
3 : to obtain an extract from (as a plant) by infusion and distillation making medicines by distilling herbs

intransitive verb

1 : to undergo distillation
2 : to condense or drop from a still after distillation

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