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

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 The commutation application submitted last week by Jones’s defense is packed with affidavits, testimonies and exhibits that aim to distill 20 years of information that will buttress Jones’s claim of innocence. Washington Post, 4 Sep. 2021 But those efforts, like so many film adaptations before them, distill essentially only the basic ingredients of their stage sources — plot, character, music — and as a result feel more imitative than transformative. Washington Post, 18 Mar. 2022 My hopes for Mammoth, at least in terms of recording, is sort of the figure out the best way to distill the recording process into a more manageable time frame. Gary Graff, cleveland, 14 Mar. 2022 In a new adaptation by Martin Crimp, the production strips the story down, using rap, rhyme, and poetry to distill the tale of passion into something rapturous in its simplicity. Maureen Lee Lenker, EW.com, 3 Mar. 2022 The objective was to distill lessons from the Global Financial Crisis and to provide a space to debate and critique emerging economic policies. Frank Van Gansbeke, Forbes, 8 Oct. 2021 For example, in the book Atlas of AI, the researcher Kate Crawford considers the dubious practice of using AI to distill emotion from human facial expressions, which often reinforces preexisting biases. Kate Cray, The Atlantic, 17 Sep. 2021 Next, distill your message down to its simplest form. Expert Panel®, Forbes, 25 Mar. 2022 Perhaps my brain uses factor analysis to distill thousands of attributes—height, fashion sense, tone of voice—into a single point in an abstract space. James Somers, The New Yorker, 29 Nov. 2021 See More

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.

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

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Last Updated

19 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Distill.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distill. Accessed 27 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for distill


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

More from Merriam-Webster on distill

Nglish: Translation of distill for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of distill for Arabic Speakers


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