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

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

The approximately 847 Democrats who would like to be their party’s nominee to take on President Trump in 2020 were trying to distinguish themselves in Iowa this weekend. Washington Post, "A 2020 Democratic front-runner? For campaign music, it’s the Clash.," 10 June 2019 The heavily sociological focus, similar to other stories searching for audiences all over Europe and North Africa, is distinguished by a strongly individual directing style that focuses tension on the young protags. Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Sheherazade': Film Review | Cannes 2018," 14 May 2018 Vogueworld Meet the Top 14 Models of Fall 2019 In the age of social media, landing a coveted runway exclusive is no longer the sole way for a new face to distinguish herself during Fashion Month. Vogue, "Meet the Top 14 Models of Fall 2019," 13 Mar. 2019 This opening sets up how this version of Watership Down will distinguish itself — by emphasizing all the parts of the narrative that involve perpetual dread. Aja Romano, Vox, "Netflix’s new Watership Down proves the beloved children’s classic was a horror story all along," 30 Dec. 2018 County Commission candidates have sought to distinguish themselves on the subjects of taxes, transit, and zoning. Meris Lutz, ajc, "Taxes likely to dominate May 22 Cobb primaries," 5 May 2018 The Bajadasaurus belongs to a group of sauropods called Dicraeosaurids, distinguished by this unusual punk-rocker morphology. Jill Kiedaisch, Popular Mechanics, "Newly Discovered Dinos Had Badass Bone Mohawks," 7 Feb. 2019 However, these variations can’t be distinguished by the naked eye – that’s where the smartphone camera comes in. Allison Barrie, Fox News, "Innovative project harnesses Legos and smartphones in the fight against invisible, deadly weapons," 13 July 2018 All eight teams are called the Ballers, with teams distinguished by their nominal hometowns. Dylan Hernandez, latimes.com, "Beyond hype, hope for young players in LaVar Ball's basketball league," 22 June 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

17 Jun 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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Comments on distinguish

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