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

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 elements that make the Mustang iconic today—rear-wheel drive, optional V-8, low-slung two-door shape—are also what distinguish it from the comparatively humdrum sedans and crossovers that currently dominate the sales charts. Car and Driver, "The Greatest Cars of All Time: The Sixties," 29 June 2020 Biden sought to distinguish himself from President Trump, who has rarely been seen wearing a mask in public. Grace Segers, CBS News, "Biden says he'd use executive powers to force Americans to wear masks in public," 26 June 2020 Despite that showing, Burns was counting on a strong combine to distinguish him from the 205 other players who declared early entry into the draft. David Hinojosa, ExpressNews.com, "Marshall alum Jordan Burns to skip NBA draft, return to Colgate with new focus," 24 June 2020 Residents named it that in the 1960s to distinguish it from nearby Red Hook, where the population was largely Black. Eric Umansky, ProPublica, "My Family Saw a Police Car Hit a Kid on Halloween. Then I Learned How NYPD Impunity Works.," 23 June 2020 Apple executives emphasized data privacy at multiple points during its event in an attempt to distinguish it from competitors like Google and Facebook, which have come under fire for lax data collection policies. Jonathan Vanian, Fortune, "Apple debuts Translate app at WWDC 2020," 22 June 2020 Because of the movement's racist history, Kwong and her team have the goal to distinguish the next wave of civilian gardens by making thoughtful changes, starting with the name. Olivia Harrison, refinery29.com, "The Freedom Garden Initiative Is Giving New Meaning To Victory Gardens," 18 June 2020 The researchers found that hummingbirds are able to see a variety of nonspectral colors, and can distinguish them from other colors. Andrea Beck, Better Homes & Gardens, "Researchers Found That Hummingbirds Can See Even More Colors Than Humans Can," 18 June 2020 How do humans and other animals distinguish between the smell of rotting seafood or the enticing allure of a ripe banana? Bret Stetka, Scientific American, "The Brain Interprets Smell like the Notes of a Song," 18 June 2020

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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Time Traveler for distinguish

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for distinguish

Last Updated

2 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Distinguish.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distinguish. Accessed 8 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for distinguish

distinguish

verb
How to pronounce distinguish (audio)

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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