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

transitive verb

: 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
: to turn aside : divert
refused to be distracted from her purpose
: to stir up or confuse with conflicting emotions or motives
distractibility noun
distractible adjective
or less commonly distractable
distractingly adverb


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dis·​tract di-ˈstrakt How to pronounce distract (audio)
: insane, mad
Choose the Right Synonym for 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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web
Critics worry that humor may unintentionally distract passengers, who tend to remember the jokes, but not the actual safety message. Joel Rose, NPR, 16 May 2024 This setup not only liberates the USB port but also clears up the clutter that can distract drivers. Stack Commerce, Popular Science, 16 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for distract 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'distract.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



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

First Known Use


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


14th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near distract

Cite this Entry

“Distract.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distract. Accessed 29 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


: to draw the attention or mind to something else
: to upset or trouble in mind to the point of confusion

More from Merriam-Webster on distract

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