distinguish

verb
dis·​tin·​guish | \di-ˈstiŋ-(g)wish \

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 \-​ˌstiŋ-​(g)wi-​shə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē \ noun
distinguishable \-​ˈstiŋ-​(g)wi-​shə-​bəl \ adjective
distinguishably \-​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

There was a new phone, a tablet, and a competitor to the Echo Show and Facebook Portal that distinguishes itself by omitting a camera. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Google has a big advantage over Facebook in a crisis," 10 Oct. 2018 Unlike Shekau's faction, ISWAP is believed to distinguish itself by refusing to kill Muslims. Alexander Smith /, NBC News, "What is Boko Haram, the militant group terrorizing Nigeria?," 19 June 2018 Dorda said Chopin distinguishes itself by making sure its ingredients are high quality. Lainey Seyler, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Not all vodka tastes like regret. At Polish Fest, you can try vodka that's good enough to sip.," 15 June 2018 Struggling to distinguish himself in his sprawling family – all clamoring for attention from their father, Joseph P. Kennedy – Robert sought out his mother, Rose, who took her religion seriously. Ross Baker, Smithsonian, "Why Robert Kennedy Transformed From a Conservative Into a Liberal Champion of Civil Rights," 5 June 2018 Faced with a potential blue wave and anti-Trump sentiments back home, members from swing districts or those where Hillary Clinton won in a landslide are hungry to distinguish themselves in any way possible. Lauren Fox, CNN, "On latest immigration fight, moderates use conservative playbook," 22 May 2018 But they’re also permeated with all the neat little design touches that distinguish the new Microsoft. Vlad Savov, The Verge, "Microsoft Surface Headphones review: all the style without the polish," 15 Nov. 2018 The image signal processor and neural engine come together for an improved Portrait mode that can distinguish between hair and background better than ever before. Hanna Howard, Teen Vogue, "Apple Event 2018 Live Blog: iPhone Updates, Announcements, and More," 12 Sep. 2018 Let’s look at a few other features that distinguish this completely new ThinkPad. Melissa Riofrio, PCWorld, "Why did Lenovo stretch the ThinkPad X1 Extreme to 15 inches? To kill the MacBook Pro," 30 Aug. 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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Statistics for distinguish

Last Updated

2 Dec 2018

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 \
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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