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


dribble, drip, drop, trickle

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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 sheer complexity of Brexit, and the need to distill it to readers via flow charts, has also spawned many satirical charts to illustrate the messiness of it all. Adam Rasmi, Quartz, "These mind-bending flowcharts show just how messy Brexit has become," 3 Sep. 2019 For every frustration in Javed’s life, there is a verse that distills it. J.t., The Economist, "“Blinded by the Light” captures Bruce Springsteen’s universal truths," 15 Aug. 2019 The network links more than 20 Canadian departments and agencies involved in intelligence gathering and distills the most important secret information, according to Mr. Wark. Ian Austen, New York Times, "Top Canadian Intelligence Official Charged With Leaking Secrets," 14 Sep. 2019 For a while, the simplest take – however true -- distills Swift into one of two moods: her love life and people who bully her. Billboard Staff, Billboard, "Five Burning Questions: Billboard Staffers Discuss Taylor Swift's Big 'Lover' Debut Week," 4 Sep. 2019 Almost everybody works for the local Asconi winery, and almost everyone distills their own wine. Madeline Roache / Puhoi, Time, "'You’re Not a Person if You Don’t Drink.' How This Tiny European Country Developed the World's Worst Drinking Problem," 29 Aug. 2019 The author-illustrator team distills the commission’s 500-plus pages into a slim, lucid volume that in no way dumbs down or oversimplifies the findings. George Gene Gustines, BostonGlobe.com, "Ernie Colón, 88, comic book artist who drew 9/11," 17 Aug. 2019 Finally, Fitbit Premium subscribers will also be able to distill accumulated data in one easy-to-read, printable report that will be developed in conjunction with medical professionals. Adrienne So, WIRED, "Fitbit Wants to Be Your One-Stop Health Care Shop," 28 Aug. 2019 Golden Wind manages to really distill this aspect of the series by offering up a small crew of people the viewers really want to root for. Michael Moore, The Verge, "The Best Anime of 2019: an ongoing list," 16 Aug. 2019

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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Statistics for distill

Last Updated

12 Oct 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for distill

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

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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 How to pronounce distil (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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More from Merriam-Webster on distill

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with distill

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for distill

Spanish Central: Translation of distill

Nglish: Translation of distill for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of distill for Arabic Speakers

Comments on distill

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to be made up of

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