distinguish

verb
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

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Other Words from distinguish

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

Synonyms & Antonyms for distinguish

Synonyms

difference, differentiate, discern, discriminate, secern, separate

Antonyms

confuse, mistake, mix (up)

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The bill would distinguish between violent and minor crimes. Stephanie Ramirez, CBS News, "Kamala Harris, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez team up on housing bill," 10 July 2019 The color scheme distinguishes Mobile from New Orleans, where the traditional colors of Fat Tuesday are purple, gold and green; the date stakes Mobile’s claim as the North American city with the oldest tradition of celebrating Carnival. al.com, "Mardi Gras flag wins Mobile County Commission approval," 8 July 2019 On Friday, Castro distinguished between the Border Patrol and HHS sites. Brian Chasnoff, ExpressNews.com, "A San Antonio nonprofit and a local caterer are hired for new migrant children’s shelter," 5 July 2019 Such characteristics also distinguish spontaneous laughs from fake ones. Diana Kwon, Scientific American, "Babies Know the Difference between the Laughter of Friends and Strangers," 1 July 2019 Onstage, Harris, the former prosecutor, distinguishes herself as a storyteller, who conjures up images as well as arguments in ways the other contenders do not. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, "Kamala Harris Is the Best Storyteller on the Democratic Stage," 28 June 2019 Different Types of Stress Physicists and engineers distinguish between several varieties of mechanical stress. Bridget Alex, Discover Magazine, "What Science Says About Why You're Stressed and How to Cope," 21 June 2019 At a glance, views from inside Amazon’s simulation can be hard to distinguish from photos of Silver Firs. Tom Simonite, WIRED, "How Amazon Cloned a Neighborhood to Test Its Delivery Robots," 14 June 2019 But a plastic bag waving in the deep ocean currents could be difficult to distinguish from a fluttering squid. Alejandra Borunda, National Geographic, "This pregnant whale died with 50 pounds of plastic in her stomach," 2 Apr. 2019

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.

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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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Statistics for distinguish

Last Updated

15 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for distinguish

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

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More Definitions for distinguish

distinguish

verb

English Language Learners Definition of distinguish

: to notice or recognize a difference between people or things
: to make (someone or something) different or special in some way
: to see or hear (someone or something) clearly

distinguish

verb
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.

distinguish

transitive verb
dis·​tin·​guish

Legal Definition of distinguish

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

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Comments on distinguish

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