verb dis·tract \ di-ˈstrakt \
|Updated on: 19 Jul 2018

Definition of distract

1 a : 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


play \-ˌstrak-tə-ˈbi-lə-tē\ noun


or less commonly distractable play \-ˈstrak-tə-bəl\ adjective


play \-tiŋ-lē\ adverb

Examples of distract in a Sentence

  1. You sneak into his room while I distract him.

  2. He was distracted from his studies.

  3. The students are easily distracted, especially when they're tired.

  4. I was distracted by a loud noise.

  5. The local story distracted attention from news of the war overseas.

Recent Examples of distract from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of distract

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

Synonym Discussion of distract

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



adjective dis·tract \ di-ˈstrakt , ˈdis-ˌtrakt \

Definition of distract

: insane, mad

First Known Use of distract

14th century

in the meaning defined above

See Words from the same year
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DISTRACT Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of distract for English Language Learners

  • : 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

DISTRACT Defined for Kids


verb dis·tract \ di-ˈstrakt \

Definition of distract for Students

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

Word Root of distract

The Latin word tractus, meaning “pulled” or “dragged,” gives us the root tract. Words from the Latin tractus have to do with being pulled or dragged. To attract is to pull or draw towards you. To distract is to pull someone's attention away from something. To extract is to pull one thing out of another. To subtract is to pull a portion or number away from a group or from a whole.

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peaceful, happy, or prosperous

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