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 Will spirits producers want to make their own wine in order to distill it into brandy? Esther Mobley, SFChronicle.com, "New California law makes it easier to blur the line between beer and wine," 26 Dec. 2019 In the past, IBM has showcased a similar system that could pull arguments from millions of news articles and distill them. Jeremy Kahn, Fortune, "IBM’s A.I. Can Now Mine People’s Collective Thoughts. Will Businesses Use This Data Thoughtfully?," 12 Dec. 2019 Feith’s new venture takes every seasonless, direct-to-consumer, limited-edition-drop trend and distills it to its purest form of art. Christina Binkley, latimes.com, "Feith Club blossoms into a desirable new fashion brand," 10 June 2019 Beyond documenting its surface details, Desailly also harnesses light and color to distill what the trap feels like. Lauryn Hill, Wired, "808s and Tough Breaks: A Look at the Origins of Trap Music," 4 Mar. 2020 When fire is used to distill alcohol (which evaporates at 173°F), we’re treated to things like Four Roses Single Barrel bourbon and Blanton’s Original. Vince Guerrieri, Popular Mechanics, "Why Fire Is the Greatest Tool of All Time," 17 Feb. 2020 This back-and-forth seemed to distill the sick logic of the Weinstein affair. Naomi Fry, The New Yorker, "The Weinstein Trial and the Myth of the Perfect Victim," 17 Feb. 2020 The stat tries to distill ballpark factors and other variables out to get a number relative to a league average of 100. Evan Grant, Dallas News, "Rougned Odor may be the single most important player at Rangers spring training — for better or for worse," 14 Feb. 2020 My job as the national security adviser is to distill and present to the president the views and options that come from the various departments and agencies. Robert C. O'brien, Twin Cities, "Robert C. O’Brien: Here’s how I will streamline Trump’s National Security Council," 18 Oct. 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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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

29 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Distill.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distill. Accessed 3 Apr. 2020.

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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 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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for distill

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with distill

Spanish Central: Translation of distill

Nglish: Translation of distill for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of distill for Arabic Speakers

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