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 Those professionals of another era, Grenney adds, not only possessed a knack for mixing the grand with the modest but managed to distill their tastes to a point where little remained that was inessential. Guy Trebay, Town & Country, "Art and Antiques Dealer Gerry Bland's Secrets of Good Taste," 29 Mar. 2021 With these two new editions of her work, her voice resounds, a writer who is easy to quote but whose self is impossible, in the end, to distill into a catchphrase. Emily Bernard, The New Republic, "Audre Lorde Broke the Silence," 25 Mar. 2021 Without the permit, Fresh Bourbon cannot legally distill bourbon in Kentucky, Victory Global alleges in the lawsuit. Ben Tobin, The Courier-Journal, "What is the first Black-owned bourbon distillery in Kentucky? Lawsuit tries to answer that," 13 Mar. 2021 While none of the students qualify as PhD-level data scientists, each team brought a combination of solid technical and coding skills, layered with an ability to listen deeply, distill a problem to its essence, and persevere through setbacks. Joel Shapiro, Forbes, "How to Hire A Data Scientist," 12 Mar. 2021 Camping in the woods seems to distill our chaotic lives down to the most basic elements, with the power to forge memorable moments from the mundane: playing cards inside our tent while waiting out a torrential thunderstorm. Jon Gorey, BostonGlobe.com, "‘A shortcut to mindfulness’: Finding a way back to the great outdoors," 4 Mar. 2021 For a time this fall, North Dakota seemed to distill the distinctly American problem of navigating personal liberty during a pandemic. Gregory Barber, Wired, "The Secret Behind North Dakota’s Speedy Vaccine Rollout," 4 Mar. 2021 Claro goes to great lengths to distill fragments of the night sky—even waiting out almost five hours of exposure time for a single shot. Leslie Nemo, Scientific American, "Stunning Astronomy Photographs Look like They’re Shot from Space," 3 Mar. 2021 WhistlePig’s Vermont location is using beer to distill whiskeys. Kate Dingwall, Forbes, "This San Diego Distillery Makes Vodka From Unwanted Beer," 26 Feb. 2021

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

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for distill

Last Updated

1 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Distill.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distill. Accessed 11 Apr. 2021.

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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 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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