mis·​take | \ mə-ˈstāk How to pronounce mistake (audio) \
mistook\ mə-​ˈstu̇k How to pronounce mistook (audio) \; mistaken\ mə-​ˈstā-​kən How to pronounce mistaken (audio) \; mistaking

Definition of mistake

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to blunder in the choice of mistook her way in the dark
2a : to misunderstand the meaning or intention of : misinterpret don't mistake me, I mean exactly what I said
b : to make a wrong judgment of the character or ability of The army's leaders mistook the strength of the enemy.
3 : to identify wrongly : confuse with another I mistook him for his brother

intransitive verb

: to be wrong you mistook when you thought I laughed at you— Thomas Hardy



Definition of mistake (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a wrong judgment : misunderstanding
2 : a wrong action or statement proceeding from faulty judgment, inadequate knowledge, or inattention

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Other Words from mistake


mistakenly adverb
mistaker noun

Choose the Right Synonym for mistake


error, mistake, blunder, slip, lapse mean a departure from what is true, right, or proper. error suggests the existence of a standard or guide and a straying from the right course through failure to make effective use of this. procedural errors mistake implies misconception or inadvertence and usually expresses less criticism than error. dialed the wrong number by mistake blunder regularly imputes stupidity or ignorance as a cause and connotes some degree of blame. diplomatic blunders slip stresses inadvertence or accident and applies especially to trivial but embarrassing mistakes. a slip of the tongue lapse stresses forgetfulness, weakness, or inattention as a cause. a lapse in judgment

Examples of mistake in a Sentence

Verb the auctioneer mistook my nod for a bid, and I ended up buying a painting I don't even like you seriously mistake me if you think I scare so easily Noun It would be a mistake to assume that we can rely on their help. There must be some mistake. The manuscript contains numerous spelling mistakes. There's a mistake in the schedule. “When does the movie start?” “At 8:00. No, wait—my mistake—it starts at 8:30.”
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Colbert’s show had a similar effect, even though some viewers misinterpreted his deadpan humor and mistook the host for a real climate change doubter. National Geographic, "Flower Farm," 13 May 2020 Sightings have been limited to the Pacific Northwest, although the smaller European hornet is sometimes mistaken for the Asian giant hornet on the East Coast. Joel Shannon, USA TODAY, "What are 'Murder Hornets' and should I be worried? Asian giant hornets spotted in the US," 2 May 2020 This could be problematic for baby fish in particular, which researchers have found can mistake microplastic particles for prey. Matt Simon, Wired, "'Microplastic Hot Spots' Are Tainting Deep-Sea Ecosystems," 30 Apr. 2020 The sensation of stretching or tearing the PDL is often mistaken for a cracked tooth, and can be quite painful. Popsci Staff, Popular Science, "You can totally sprain your teeth (and you’ve probably done it before)," 29 Apr. 2020 Also, some health experts say it’s possible an antibody test could mistake another strain of coronavirus, like the common cold, for COVID-19. Catherine Marfin, Dallas News, "What is a coronavirus antibody test?," 21 Apr. 2020 Stefani feels that so many of us are dehydrated and mistaking thirst for hunger. Good Housekeeping, "About the Good Housekeeping Nutrition Lab," 20 Mar. 2020 Amber Guyger, 31, said during her trial that mistook Botham Jean’s apartment for her own, which was one floor below Jean’s. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Family seeks answers after police kill Texas woman at home," 13 Oct. 2019 The typical liberal impulse is to mistake self-congratulation for altruism. Armond White, National Review, "Rebellion, New Order–Style: What Happened to It?," 16 Apr. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Make no mistake: This 6,912 CUDA core-packing beast targets data scientists, with internal hardware optimized around deep learning tasks. Brad Chacos, PCWorld, "Nvidia's bleeding-edge Ampere GPU architecture revealed: 5 things PC gamers need to know," 14 May 2020 The idea that grandmothers have the responsibility to alert the next generation to avoid the mistakes of the past has also gained momentum in Austria and Germany. Monika Rębała, The Christian Science Monitor, "Polish Grannies vs. the far-right: Europe's unlikely democracy defenders," 11 May 2020 But the fact is that the biggest mistake comes from doing nothing. Tom Keer, Outdoor Life, "7 Top Hunting Dog Training Tips from World-Class Experts," 11 May 2020 Springfield’s Defend Your Legacy Series XD3 Sub Compact might be the least expensive handgun on this list, but do not make the mistake of thinking its price is a representation of its quality. Richard Mann, Field & Stream, "5 Reliable Handguns Under $500," 4 May 2020 Given that the numbers helped drive its stock price, expect some federal interest in the mistake soon. Adam Lashinsky, Fortune, "Why Google is a better stock bet than Facebook right now," 30 Apr. 2020 After bringing the beauticians face to face with the outcome of their mistakes, Wright, who has also worked with Kerry Washington, Tamron Hall, Lauren London, and Janelle Monae, enrolls them in a crash boot camp. Keyaira Boone, Essence, "Tamar Braxton And Celebrity Hairstylist Johnny Wright Are Trying 'To Catch A Beautician'," 21 Apr. 2020 Streeck, who did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Science has long questioned how serious COVID-19 really is, tweeting that WHO’s decision to declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern in January was a mistake. Gretchen Vogel, Science | AAAS, "Reopening puts Germany’s much-praised coronavirus response at risk," 27 Apr. 2020 Read on to learn about the most common mistakes, plus Berger’s tips for avoiding them. Madeleine Burry, Woman's Day, "Avoid These Common Medication Mistakes," 17 Apr. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mistake.' 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 mistake


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


1600, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for mistake

Verb and Noun

Middle English

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Learn More about mistake

Time Traveler for mistake

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for mistake

Last Updated

20 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Mistake.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mistake. Accessed 29 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for mistake


How to pronounce mistake (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of mistake

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to understand (something or someone) incorrectly
: to make a wrong judgment about (something)
: to identify (someone or something) incorrectly



English Language Learners Definition of mistake (Entry 2 of 2)

: something that is not correct : a wrong action, statement, or judgment


mis·​take | \ mə-ˈstāk How to pronounce mistake (audio) \
mistook\ mə-​ˈstu̇k \; mistaken\ mə-​ˈstā-​kən \; mistaking

Kids Definition of mistake

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : misunderstand It was easy to mistake her message.
2 : to fail to recognize correctly She mistook me for someone else.



Kids Definition of mistake (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a wrong judgment or action She was accused by mistake.
2 : something that is incorrect Correct the mistakes on your paper.



Legal Definition of mistake

1 : an unintentional error especially in legal procedure or form that does not indicate bad faith and that commonly warrants excuse or relief by the court the court's power to revise a judgment because of fraud, mistake, or irregularity a clerical mistake
2 : an erroneous belief: as
a : a state of mind that is not in accordance with the facts existing at the time a contract is made and that may be a ground for the rescission or reformation of the contract
b : a misconception at the time of an offense alleged by a defendant
mistake of fact
1 : a mistake regarding a fact or facts especially that significantly affects the performance of a contract
2 : a criminal defense that attempts to eliminate culpability on the ground that the defendant operated from an unintentional misunderstanding of fact rather than from a criminal purpose
mistake of law
: a mistake involving the misunderstanding or incorrect application of law in regard to an act, contract, transaction, determination, or state of affairs also : a criminal defense alleging such a mistake

Note: In both contract and criminal law a mistake of law is a weaker ground for relief or acquittal than a mistake of fact.

mutual mistake
: a mistake common to both parties to a contract who were in agreement about the purpose or terms of the contract reformed the contract because of a mutual mistake
unilateral mistake
: a mistake on the part of one party to a contract that is usually not a ground for rescission or reformation unless one party stands to profit or benefit improperly from the mistake

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