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)


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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 Dorothy has a lot to say and at times her tangents about truffle hunting, prison cuisine and acrobatic love-making threaten to distract from the juicy marrow of her confessions. Bethanne Patrick, Los Angeles Times, "Review: Salt, fat, acid, humans: A tangy new entry in the cannibal lit canon," 16 Dec. 2020 Yet, the sonic backing of distorted electronic sounds tends to distract from the moving story. Troy L. Smith, cleveland, "'Stankonia’ at 20: Ranking every Outkast song from worst to best," 27 Oct. 2020 There were no sports going on to distract anyone from the nation's racial issues. Rod Walker, NOLA.com, "Walker: A look back at the unforgettable New Orleans sports moments in a year we'd like to forget," 30 Dec. 2020 If a predator grabs a Texas spiny lizard by the tail, the tail can snap off and wiggle to distract the predator while the lizard makes a run for it. René A. Guzman, ExpressNews.com, "Texas spiny lizard not as famous as the Texas horned lizard or horny toad, but is a master of disguise with real spunk," 22 Dec. 2020 When the woman returned with only her female friend, the club employees said the women weren’t allowed to enter because of a company policy to prevent potential domestic arguments, prostitution or distract the other customers. Ryan Gillespie, orlandosentinel.com, "Florida Supreme Court declines to take up Orlando strip club discrimination case," 15 Dec. 2020 The fake Florida-Ohio standard may be a final example of how Trump’s constant lies serve to distract and disorient anyone who tries to keep up with them. Amy Davidson Sorkin, The New Yorker, "The Supreme Court Rejects Texas’s Shameful Lawsuit, But There Has to Be a Reckoning," 12 Dec. 2020 When meerkats and wildebeests failed to distract, the Travel Channel and TLC offered another way to burn away the day: paranormal TV. Lorraine Ali Television Critic, Los Angeles Times, "In a year of loss, I found comfort and connection in an unlikely place: paranormal TV," 10 Dec. 2020 Very few elections have felt as important as this one, so ABC is not looking to distract anyone from this monumental moment by airing a new episode of The Bachelorette in its usual Tuesday time slot. Lydia Wang, refinery29.com, "This Week’s Bachelorette Schedule Is A Little Different," 2 Nov. 2020

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

20 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Distract.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distract. Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for distract


How to pronounce distract (audio)

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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