dis·​tin·​guish | \ di-ˈstiŋ-(g)wish How to pronounce distinguish (audio) \
distinguished; distinguishing; distinguishes

Definition of distinguish

transitive verb

1 : to perceive a difference in : mentally separate so alike they could not be distinguished
2a : to mark as separate or different a policy that distinguishes him from other candidates
b : to separate into kinds, classes, or categories distinguish words by their part of speech
c : to make noteworthy or remarkable : to give prominence or distinction (see distinction sense 4) to distinguished themselves as pioneers of hip-hop
d : characterize recipes distinguished by simplicity
3a : discern distinguished a light in the distance could barely distinguish them in the fog
b : to single out : take special notice of

intransitive verb

: to perceive a difference distinguish between right and wrong

Other Words from distinguish

distinguishability \ di-​ˌstiŋ-​(g)wi-​shə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce distinguish (audio) \ noun
distinguishable \ di-​ˈstiŋ-​(g)wi-​shə-​bəl How to pronounce distinguish (audio) \ adjective
distinguishably \ di-​ˈstiŋ-​(g)wi-​shə-​blē How to pronounce distinguish (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for distinguish



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Examples of distinguish in a Sentence

You're old enough to distinguish between fact and fantasy. I have trouble distinguishing between the two of them. I have trouble distinguishing the difference between the two of them. You should be able to distinguish fact from fantasy. The only thing that distinguishes the dogs is their bark. The singer's voice is what distinguishes the band. You can't distinguish the detail from this distance. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Such gear is standard and meant to distinguish journalists from crowds and combatants while signaling to all sides that they should not be targeted. Miriam Berger, Washington Post, 12 May 2022 Gaiman gave Sturridge another important piece of advice early on, to help distinguish his performance from another comic book icon. Christian Holub, EW.com, 12 May 2022 Today, these myths are merely a point of interest, a marketing angle to help distinguish Mount Pilatus from all the other scenic sites in Switzerland. New York Times, 12 May 2022 Clinicians say that paying attention to your individual medical history may help distinguish allergies from COVID. Mariana Lenharo, Scientific American, 11 May 2022 Jim Kossin, a senior hurricane scientist at the Climate Service who reviewed the research, said this study is important to help distinguish how storms respond to air pollution versus greenhouse gases. Rachel Ramirez, CNN, 11 May 2022 Trademarks are sought when companies introduce names, logos, colors or symbols that distinguish a product or business brand. Daisy Maxey, WSJ, 7 May 2022 For example, edge intelligence will allow smart home devices to distinguish between household occupants with ease. Mark Lippett, Forbes, 5 May 2022 Apple is doing more to distinguish the iPhone 14 Pro from the iPhone 14 phones. Chris Smith, BGR, 25 Apr. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'distinguish.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of distinguish

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for distinguish

alteration of Middle English distinguen, from Anglo-French distinguer, from Latin distinguere, literally, to separate by pricking, from dis- + -stinguere (akin to Latin instigare to urge on) — more at stick

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Time Traveler for distinguish

Time Traveler

The first known use of distinguish was in the 15th century

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Statistics for distinguish

Last Updated

16 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Distinguish.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distinguish. Accessed 25 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for distinguish


dis·​tin·​guish | \ di-ˈstiŋ-gwish How to pronounce distinguish (audio) \
distinguished; distinguishing

Kids Definition of distinguish

1 : to recognize one thing from others by some mark or quality He distinguished the sound of the piano in the orchestra.
2 : to hear or see clearly You can't distinguish her face in this photo.
3 : to know the difference Can you distinguish between right and wrong?
4 : to set apart as different or special She distinguished herself by heroic actions.


transitive verb

Legal Definition of distinguish

: to identify or explain differences in or from distinguished the cases on factual grounds

More from Merriam-Webster on distinguish

Nglish: Translation of distinguish for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of distinguish for Arabic Speakers


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