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 Newer controllers also have textured grips, which can help distinguish them from older models. Brittany Vincent, CNN Underscored, "The Best iOS Games To Use With Xbox and PS4 Controllers," 4 Oct. 2019 The writer distinguishes between two approaches to mindfulness, deliberate and effortless. Ephrat Livni, Quartzy, "Enjoy the liberation of meditation without pain—or contemplation," 6 Sep. 2019 Eric Abrahamson, a Columbia business professor who studies management trends, distinguishes between fads and fashions. Oliver Staley, Quartz at Work, "Whatever happened to Six Sigma?," 3 Sep. 2019 The sensor technology is able to distinguish between soundwaves specific to gunfire from waves caused by firecrackers or backfiring vehicles and pinpoints the point of origin and the type of weapon. Robert Higgs, cleveland.com, "Cleveland City Council set to approve shot sensor technology to help police pinpoint location of gunfire," 20 Aug. 2019 Two new categories distinguish between commercial projects planned inside city limits and outside city limits. Catalina Righter, baltimoresun.com/maryland/carroll, "Westminster council OKs water policy amendment, bids fond farewell to planning director," 16 Aug. 2019 Among global fast-fashion players, H&M has long distinguished itself via designer collaborations. Channing Hargrove, refinery29.com, "H&M Will Debut Its First Chinese Designer Capsule Collection This Fall," 23 July 2019 This suggests the algorithm is unable to distinguish between the vocal characteristics associated with enthusiasm and exuberance as opposed to genuine fear or aggression. Jeff Kao And Jack Gillum, ProPublica, "Methodology: How We Tested an Aggression Detection Algorithm," 25 June 2019 Size is one way to distinguish between hulking apes and more diminutive monkeys: Male gorillas can weigh over 400 pounds, but monkeys max out at the 80-pound mandrill. Bridget Alex, Discover Magazine, "A Primer to Our Planet of Monkeys," 12 June 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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Statistics for distinguish

Last Updated

18 Nov 2019

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
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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