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)

: insane, mad

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Other Words from distract


distractibility \ di-​ˌstrak-​tə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce distract (audio) \ noun
distractible or less commonly distractable \ di-​ˈstrak-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce distract (audio) \ adjective
distractingly \ di-​ˈstrak-​tiŋ-​lē How to pronounce distract (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 In the case of the attack on the woman outside the apartment building in Manhattan, the victim’s daughter said someone had tried to help: A passerby yelled at the perpetrator in an attempt to distract him. BostonGlobe.com, "Would you jump in to stop an assault?," 3 Apr. 2021 The pandemic left many people confined to their homes, bored and with plenty of food and little to distract them. The Conversation, oregonlive, "This is actually why you’ve gained weight during the pandemic," 3 Apr. 2021 The pandemic left many people confined to their homes, bored and with plenty of food and little to distract them. Lina Begdache, The Conversation, "Unwanted weight gain or weight loss during the pandemic? Blame your stress hormones," 2 Apr. 2021 That La Helmsley would go on to spend 21 months in the slammer for tax evasion should not distract us from the basic truth of her statement. Timothy Noah, The New Republic, "How the Top 0.01 Percent Became America’s Criminal Class," 24 Mar. 2021 How to stay calm and distract yourself on Election Day. Ashley Shaffer, USA TODAY, "It's about to go down," 2 Nov. 2020 More broadly, some critics have expressed concern that a focus on solar geoengineering could distract policymakers from reducing greenhouse gases. Chelsea Harvey, Scientific American, "Solar Geoengineering Should be Investigated, Scientists Say," 26 Mar. 2021 Suggesting that the proposal is intended to distract from more serious problems like skyrocketing unemployment, Nuria Chinchilla, professor at IESE Business School, sums up this point of view. Lisa Abend, Time, "Spain Is Going to Trial a 4-Day Work Week. Could the Idea Go Mainstream Post-Pandemic?," 22 Mar. 2021 With the brothers occupied, Coral’s job, as Romeo’s former favourite employee, is to visit him at his office and distract her boss long enough to access the Las Novias Club safe. Ariana Romero, refinery29.com, "Netflix’s Sky Rojo Finale Is Bloody As Hell. Just How Worried Should You Be About Your Faves?," 22 Mar. 2021

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

14 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Distract.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distract. Accessed 20 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for distract



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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Comments on distract

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