dis·till | \di-ˈstil \
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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for distill


clarify, clear, filter, fine, purify

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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

Its nine hotels — including locations in Chicago, London, Los Angeles and New Orleans — aim to distill the creative vibe of each city by hosting events featuring local musicians, artists, writers and filmmakers. Elaine Glusac, New York Times, "From Ace Hotel, a New City and a New Brand," 25 June 2018 No word—no matter how descriptive—could ever distill all the nuance and complexity that is a single human being. Orrin Hatch, WSJ, "Identity Politics Threatens the American Experiment," 18 May 2018 To have a sense of what’s interesting, to talk to the right people, to take it all and distill it into 8,000 words that are mostly written on the fly? Tim Rohan, SI.com, "King‘s Tale: An Oral History of Peter King," 29 May 2018 In November and December, each team and product area will develop its own plans for the coming year and distill them into OKRs. John Doerr, WIRED, "When John Doerr Brought a ‘Gift’ to Google’s Founders," 24 Apr. 2018 For its new Ginger Zest, Belvedere separately distills fresh ginger, pink grapefruit, lemon, and honey vodkas then blends them with more base spirit, much as a blended whiskey would be made. Elva Ramirez, charlotteobserver, "Flavored vodka is moving on from its whipped cream, PB&J past," 6 July 2018 What happened next is a moment that perfectly distills Davidson’s appeal. Patricia Hernandez, The Verge, "Did you hear Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson are engaged?," 26 June 2018 New York artist Shoja Azari distills the sweep of these elements in two video projections, inserting live-action clips of recent political events into a Persian manuscript painting and a coffee-house mural. Christopher Knight, latimes.com, "In Iranian art show at LACMA, the past wrestles with the present," 4 June 2018 Below, nine new summer eaux that distill the scent of freedom into a bottle. Zoe Ruffner, Vogue, "9 Dreamy Fragrances Inspired by Summer’s Greatest Escapes," 1 June 2018

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about distill

Statistics for distill

Last Updated

12 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for distill

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for distill



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 \
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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on distill

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


a state of commotion or excitement

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Roman Mythology Quiz

  • the-triumph-of-venus-by-alessandro-magnasco
  • Boreal comes from the name of the ancient Greek god of which wind?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Dictionary Devil

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


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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