dis·tract | \di-ˈstrakt \

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, ˈdis-ˌtrakt \

Definition of distract (Entry 2 of 2)


: insane, mad

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Other Words from distract


distractibility \-ˌstrak-tə-ˈbi-lə-tē \ noun
distractible or less commonly distractable \-ˈstrak-tə-bəl \ adjective
distractingly \-tiŋ-lē \ adverb

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


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

Garrow said accident rates are high among drivers who are distracted behind the wheel, whether it’s cell phones or passengers riding in the car. Julie Gallant, Ramona Sentinel, "Officers host Coffee with a Cop," 19 June 2018 Small precautions like this can ensure that parents don’t get distracted. Gina Martinez, Time, "Drowning Is the No. 2 Cause of Death for Young Children. Here's How to Keep Your Kids Safe Around Pools," 13 June 2018 Keep your background clean, though, so that nothing will distract from the main focus: the food! Madeline Mitchell, Cincinnati.com, "Food photography: How to make your foodstagram insta-famous for the Grand Tasting," 5 June 2018 Towns have expressed concern about tasking their lifeguards with checking to see if people are smoking, which would distract them from keeping their eyes on the water. Bloomberg.com, "New Jersey Is Trying to Ban Most Smoking on Public Beaches," 4 June 2018 Several of the Democratic contenders, including Rouda, have argued however that Russia relations have distracted Rohrabacher from more pressing issues facing the district. Maeve Reston, CNN, "Dana Rohrabacher rival takes on his ties to Russia with help from Seinfeld star," 24 May 2018 The point, of course, was to distract us from the real issue, which is that amateurism is an outdated concept that makes no sense in a billion-dollar industry that enriches everyone but the players on the field and on the court. Mike Finger, San Antonio Express-News, "NCAA still dodging fundamental question," 2 May 2018 The new technology allows them to work without technology distracting them. Holly V. Hays, Indianapolis Star, "'It’s a game changer': Lawrence police get holster-activated body camera technology," 3 Apr. 2018 And during the trial a judge warned that the sight of a giant woman eating a biscuit could distract male drivers, causing them to crash. The Economist, "Why billboards are under attack in Pakistan’s business capital," 22 Mar. 2018

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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Learn More about distract

Phrases Related to distract

divert/distract attention

Statistics for distract

Last Updated

11 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for distract

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

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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 \
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

What made you want to look up distract? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

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