distinguish

verb
dis·​tin·​guish | \ di-ˈstiŋ-(g)wish \
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 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 \ di-​ˌstiŋ-​(g)wi-​shə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē \ noun
distinguishable \ di-​ˈstiŋ-​(g)wi-​shə-​bəl \ adjective
distinguishably \ di-​ˈstiŋ-​(g)wi-​shə-​blē \ 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

Due to the resolution of the satellite images, smaller burial mounds from about three to five meters (9.8 to 16.4 feet) in diameter didn’t show up or were too hard to distinguish from rock outcrops and other natural terrain. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "Satellites watch over the graves of ancient steppe nomads," 26 Dec. 2018 The history of a house like Bulgari, founded 130 years ago, is a critical distinguishing quality in the luxury market, and the ability to showcase that legacy is a show of strength. Stellene Volandes, Town & Country, "Bulgari Is on a Quest For Treasures From Its Past," 26 Oct. 2018 This type of suspicion appears likely to grow, as influence campaigns get harder and harder to distinguish from authentic activity. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Fake news evolved into fake events, and the consequences are scary," 3 Aug. 2018 Indeed, what are Whitman's words and Aucoin's can be hard to distinguish. Mark Swed, latimes.com, "Walt Whitman's operatic America in 'Crossing' gets its West Coast premiere," 27 May 2018 From the outside, the Model 3 can be hard to distinguish from its bigger sibling — the Model S — except for a few telltale signs. David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle, "Tesla Model 3 review: Was it worth the wait?," 13 Feb. 2018 Manufactured homes used to be known as mobile or trailer homes, but housing laws in the 1970s and ‘80s officially distinguished these dwellings from true mobile homes, which are trailers set on wheels. Maggie Burch, House Beautiful, "The Impressive Evolution Of Prefabricated Houses," 24 Dec. 2018 Three other details distinguish the Spectre x360 13 (2018) from its predecessor, the 2017 model. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "HP Spectre x360 13 (2018) hands on: 'Whiskey Lake' power sits alongside 22 hours of battery life," 23 Oct. 2018 Tuning in to smaller changes Smaller changes in density, such as adding small amounts of salt to the water, cannot be distinguished by ear. Chris Lee, Ars Technica, "Musical instrument goes flat in presence of adulterated medicine," 17 Sep. 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

14 Jan 2019

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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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