distinguish

verb
dis·​tin·​guish | \di-ˈstiŋ-(g)wish \

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 5) 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 \ -​ˌstiŋ-​(g)wi-​shə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē \ noun
distinguishable \ -​ˈstiŋ-​(g)wi-​shə-​bəl \ adjective
distinguishably \ -​blē \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for distinguish

Synonyms

difference, differentiate, discern, discriminate, 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

What distinguishes the book is Vaidhyanathan's skill in putting the social media phenomenon into a broader context - legal, historical and political. Nicholas Carr, chicagotribune.com, "Is Facebook the problem with Facebook, or is it us?," 10 July 2018 Yet what distinguishes the Trump era’s turbulence is the sheer number of his deputies — many of them largely anonymous before his inauguration — who have become the focus of planned and sometimes spontaneous public fury. Paul Schwartzman, Washington Post, "‘Viciousness’: Trump aides endure public fury toward president’s policies," 9 July 2018 Primary day is two months and two days away in Connecticut, which gives the Republican contenders for governor precious little time to try to distinguish themselves and gain separation from the pack. Neil Vigdor, courant.com, "Five Key Takeaways From The First GOP Gubernatorial Primary Debate," 12 June 2018 But what distinguishes Smith’s newest work from earlier collections is its rootedness in questioning U.S. history and identity. Adrianna Smith, The Atlantic, "What Tracy K. Smith Sees in America," 9 June 2018 What distinguishes such quotidian fare is Garmendia's delivery. Lexi Pandell, WIRED, "Meet Germán Garmendia, the Aggressively Normal YouTube Superstar Who Wants It All," 8 June 2018 What distinguishes Asry from other bloggers is her modest riff on Scandi style. Vogue, "How @fashionwithfaith’s Imane Asry Is Dressing for Ramadan," 23 May 2018 What distinguishes disease prevention from age reversal, according to Church, is whether an old dog's body can heal like a young one. Laura Yan, Popular Mechanics, "This Secretive Harvard Startup is Trying to Reverse Aging," 13 May 2018 Her skill set and basketball IQ are phenomenal, but what distinguishes her the most is her humility and unselfishness. Greg Levinsky, BostonGlobe.com, "Nobles freshman invited to USA Basketball U17 women’s tryouts," 26 Apr. 2018

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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Last Updated

4 Nov 2018

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 \
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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