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 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 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

Year after year, after all, Mary-Kate and Ashley have distinguished themselves as beauty and fashion icons. Jenna Rennert, Vogue, "Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s Best Twinning Beauty Looks Through the Years," 11 Feb. 2019 How does the Fondazione distinguish itself from other similar foundations supported by luxury fashion brands, in Italy or elsewhere in Europe? Erik Maza, Town & Country, "Inside the Interactive Maze Gripping the Milan Art World," 27 Sep. 2018 Once the discriminator tool could no longer distinguish if the portrait was man-made or not, the image was complete. Shirin Ghaffary, Recode, "AI-produced artwork is moving from the fringes into the high art world," 25 Sep. 2018 Their dorsal fins also often are distinguishing, with unique scarring and shape. Lynda V. Mapes, The Seattle Times, "What you need to know about the critically endangered southern resident killer whales," 25 Sep. 2018 Last year's top pick, DL Hall, is distinguishing himself as probably the class of the organization's left-handed starters at Low-A Delmarva right now. Jon Meoli, baltimoresun.com, "One for the future: Evaluating Orioles prospect Alex Wells," 12 July 2018 In other words, Annie’s feelings distinguish her from the idealized images of mothers as nurturing domestic angels, like the one recently depicted in the post-apocalyptic horror film A Quiet Place. Katherine Fusco, The Atlantic, "Hereditary and the Monstrousness of Creative Moms," 11 July 2018 But the episode, written by Rachel Shukert, really distinguishes itself when Ruth tells the story to Debbie Eagan (Betty Gilpin), her estranged best friend and co-star. James Poniewozik, kansascity, "Netflix’s ‘Glow’ brings #MeToo to the 1980s," 3 July 2018 Top military officials have long distinguished between the end of the Islamic State caliphate, which is the territory the group holds, with the far more complex fight that follows, which includes going after an underground insurgency. Gordon Lubold, WSJ, "Battle to Capture Last of Islamic State Territory Slows," 17 Feb. 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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Last Updated

11 Mar 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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