dis·​tract | \ di-ˈstrakt How to pronounce distract (audio) \
distracted; distracting; distracts

Definition of distract

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to draw or direct (something, such as someone's attention) to a different object or in different directions at the same time was distracted by a sudden noise
b : to turn aside : divert refused to be distracted from her purpose
2 : to stir up or confuse with conflicting emotions or motives


dis·​tract | \ di-ˈstrakt How to pronounce distract (audio) , ˈdis-ˌtrakt \

Definition of distract (Entry 2 of 2)


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Other Words from distract


distractibility \ di-​ˌstrak-​tə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce distractibility (audio) \ noun
distractible or less commonly distractable \ di-​ˈstrak-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce distractable (audio) \ adjective
distractingly \ di-​ˈstrak-​tiŋ-​lē How to pronounce distractingly (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms for distract

Synonyms: Verb

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puzzle, perplex, bewilder, distract, nonplus, confound, dumbfound mean to baffle and disturb mentally. puzzle implies existence of a problem difficult to solve. the persistent fever puzzled the doctor perplex adds a suggestion of worry and uncertainty especially about making a necessary decision. a behavior that perplexed her friends bewilder stresses a confusion of mind that hampers clear and decisive thinking. a bewildering number of possibilities distract implies agitation or uncertainty induced by conflicting preoccupations or interests. distracted by personal problems nonplus implies a bafflement that makes orderly planning or deciding impossible. the remark left us utterly nonplussed confound implies temporary mental paralysis caused by astonishment or profound abasement. the tragic news confounded us all dumbfound suggests intense but momentary confounding; often the idea of astonishment is so stressed that it becomes a near synonym of astound. was at first too dumbfounded to reply

Examples of distract in a Sentence

Verb You sneak into his room while I distract him. He was distracted from his studies. The students are easily distracted, especially when they're tired. I was distracted by a loud noise. The local story distracted attention from news of the war overseas.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb If the Woods theory holds, the Australia nod could be a misdirect to distract the judges. Ariana Brockington, refinery29.com, "Leading Theories About Who The Kangaroo Is On The Masked Singer," 12 Feb. 2020 The three who spoke further all agreed that distracted driving is an issue. Kellie Hwang, Indianapolis Star, "Here's why some representatives of both parties voted against the distracted driving bill," 7 Feb. 2020 Abigail Stewart-Kahn, director of strategy and external affairs for the homeless department, said poring the city’s finite resources into temporary shelter spaces will distract from the ultimate goal of creating more housing units. Trisha Thadani, SFChronicle.com, "Shelter vs. housing: SF officials debate beds for homeless in every district," 6 Feb. 2020 Doubtless the House managers, knowing that the Senate would never convict, were less willing to throw themselves into litigation that might not be resolved until summer, distracting the public from the presidential campaign. Time, "“Let the People Decide.” The Dangerous Idea At the Heart of Trump's Impeachment Acquittal.," 5 Feb. 2020 Weinstein came about ten minutes later and was distracted on his phone, Young testified. Eric Levenson, CNN, "Harvey Weinstein's sixth and final accuser testifies about his unwanted sexual advance," 5 Feb. 2020 The province has been in virtual lockdown, and international news has shown quiet, empty streets and residents staying distracted with television and food delivery. Chris Kenning, The Courier-Journal, "Kentucky teacher caught in Chinese 'ghost town' amid coronavirus outbreak," 5 Feb. 2020 Sources have said investigators are interested in whether Streicher may have been preoccupied or distracted at the time of the crash. Ashley Luthern, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee County deputy investigated on suspicion of running red light in crash that killed MPS official," 30 Jan. 2020 The focus of these details will be aggressive traffic enforcement targeting distracted driving, reckless and careless driving, seatbelts, and excessive speed. Bisma Parvez, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State Police targeted drivers on M-59, M-53, Lodge freeways today," 29 Jan. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'distract.' 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 distract


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1b


14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for distract


Middle English, from Latin distractus, past participle of distrahere, literally, to draw apart, from dis- + trahere to draw

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Time Traveler for distract

Time Traveler

The first known use of distract was in the 14th century

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Statistics for distract

Last Updated

15 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Distract.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distract. Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for distract


How to pronounce distract (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of distract

: to cause (someone) to stop thinking about or paying attention to someone or something and to think about or pay attention to someone or something else instead
: to take (attention) away from someone or something


dis·​tract | \ di-ˈstrakt How to pronounce distract (audio) \
distracted; distracting

Kids Definition of distract

: to draw a person's thoughts or attention to something else The TV distracts me when I'm studying.

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