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.
Recent Examples on the Web The new definition also states the Clean Water Act only applies to wetlands that are difficult to distinguish from waterways. Hayleigh Evans, The Arizona Republic, 16 Apr. 2024 It’s already left at least 33,000 people dead in Gaza, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says the majority of the dead are women and children. Adam Taylor, Washington Post, 11 Apr. 2024 See all Example Sentences for distinguish 

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 22 Apr. 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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