distinguish

verb

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

transitive verb

1
: to perceive a difference in : mentally separate
so alike they could not be distinguished
2
a
: 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
3
a
: 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
distinguishability noun
distinguishable adjective
distinguishably adverb

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 For each decade, extract the essential silhouette and then distinguish the characters with collars, colors, lapels, fabrics and the occasional really great sweater. Valli Herman, Los Angeles Times, 14 Feb. 2024 Arbitrary rules, doxing practices, and cancel culture have led to something hard to distinguish from censorship for the sober and well-meaning. Jaron Lanier, WIRED, 13 Feb. 2024 Cross-Disciplinary, Strategic Leadership Beyond deep AI fluency, CAIOs distinguish themselves through versatile, cross-disciplinary thinking. Mark Minevich, Forbes, 15 Feb. 2024 This behavior distinguishes city coyotes from their ranch or wild cousins. David Montesino, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 14 Feb. 2024 Photo Gallery Israel-Hamas war, week 19 The ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians, provided the breakdown at the request of the AP. Compiled Bydemocrat-Gazette Stafffrom Wire Reports, arkansasonline.com, 13 Feb. 2024 The relatively new practice of premiering ads before the game also blunted the sense of discovery, which helped distinguish the truly fresh drops. Brian Lowry, CNN, 11 Feb. 2024 Locals distinguish their town from mining cities in the region, where pressure to earn as much as possible and buy the latest car or snowmobile is stronger. Erika Page, The Christian Science Monitor, 2 Feb. 2024 That development came in response to a state law legalizing hemp, with State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle saying there was no way for officers to visually distinguish between hemp and marijuana. Aaron Leibowitz, Miami Herald, 1 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'distinguish.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near distinguish

Cite this Entry

“Distinguish.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distinguish. Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

distinguish

verb
dis·​tin·​guish dis-ˈtiŋ-(g)wish How to pronounce distinguish (audio)
1
: to recognize one thing from others by some mark or quality
distinguish the bird calls
2
: to hear or see clearly : make out, discern
distinguish a light in the distance
3
: to know or point out the difference
distinguish between right and wrong
4
: to set apart as different or special
distinguished themselves by heroic actions
distinguishable adjective
distinguishably adverb

Legal Definition

distinguish

transitive verb
dis·​tin·​guish
: to identify or explain differences in or from
distinguished the cases on factual grounds

More from Merriam-Webster on distinguish

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