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

Jaden, meanwhile, seems enthusiastic about killing his first deer, but is also distracted by texts and calls from his girlfriend, and is bored by his dad’s insistence on doing everything old-school. Noel Murray, latimes.com, "Review: Awkward father-son bonding lacks punch in modest 'Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter'," 5 July 2018 Having been exposed to the problem, some gave an immediate answer, some were given time to think, and a third group were given a tricky maths problem to distract them. Daniel Glaser, A-LIST, "Out of Your Mind," 1 July 2018 But for all the speeches and the passion of the people gathered, I am distracted by the harsh and unforgiving landscape that stretches in every direction around us. refinery29.com, "Planned Parenthood Leader Recounts "Cruelty & Hatred" At The Border," 27 June 2018 But the second half of the second season has largely frozen its main characters in place for several episodes, looping and darting through time in a seeming effort to distract from how little is actually going on. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "Am I watching Westworld wrong?," 22 June 2018 It’s all designed to get us down to their level, to distract and weaken us. Recode Staff, Recode, "Full transcript: Former NSA and CIA director General Michael Hayden on Recode Decode," 19 June 2018 But, at the same time, Meghan doesn't want to distract from the purpose of her day with the Queen, hence her covered shoulders. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Meghan Markle Looks Quite Ladylike for Her First Solo Appearance with the Queen," 14 June 2018 For Microsoft, the following decade was a painful, distracting, and expensive era as the company fought anti-trust litigation in the U.S. and Europe. Jonas Kron, Fortune, "Microsoft Does These 2 Things to Stay out of Trouble. Facebook Should Try Them," 8 June 2018 The recognition should encompass all your senses to not be distracted. Robert Duffer, chicagotribune.com, "The shift is on: Manual transmissions may be endangered but they're also beloved," 11 July 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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Phrases Related to distract

divert/distract attention

Statistics for distract

Last Updated

13 Sep 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).


a magnificent or impressive array

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