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

transitive verb

: to blunder in the choice of
mistook her way in the dark
: to misunderstand the meaning or intention of : misinterpret
don't mistake me, I mean exactly what I said
: to make a wrong judgment of the character or ability of
The army's leaders mistook the strength of the enemy.
: 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 youThomas Hardy
mistakenly adverb
mistaker noun


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: a wrong judgment : misunderstanding
: a wrong action or statement proceeding from faulty judgment, inadequate knowledge, or inattention
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.”
Recent Examples on the Web
As the key detail to even the most dramatic hair looks (as seen on FKA Twigs), the strong-hold styling product is used daily with brands like Moco de Gorila’s Gorilla Snot Gel (not to be mistaken for gorilla glue) and Got2B Glued Styling Gel as beauty supply store front runners. India Espy-Jones, Essence, 11 Apr. 2024 Evelyn had initially mistaken the throbbing for gallbladder pain. Amber Ferguson, Washington Post, 6 Apr. 2024 The monkey deity’s name originates from a story in which Hanuman, then a child, mistakes the sun for a fruit and attempts to grab it. Aaron Boorstein, Smithsonian Magazine, 5 Apr. 2024 Taking them on as performers protects us from ever mistaking shows such as Morning Joe, 60 Minutes, Face the Nation, Anderson Cooper 360, Meet the Press, and The Reid Out with Joy Reid as anything other than propaganda. Armond White, National Review, 29 Mar. 2024 Minor drama ensues after Aren is mistaken for a server by a patron and unceremoniously fired by his gallerist. Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 29 Mar. 2024 No one will mistake this sprawling set for ever following a straight path, or having a remotely dull moment. Chris Willman, Variety, 29 Mar. 2024 Halle Berry is sharing her experience with getting a diagnosis for perimenopause, which her doctors initially mistook for herpes. Jenna Ryu, SELF, 26 Mar. 2024 People often mistake a slow connection for a slow phone. Dua Rashid / Gizmodo, Quartz, 24 Mar. 2024
And a recent study in Arizona (first reported by The Washington Post) found that less than 1% of noncitizens attempt to register to vote, and even in those cases, the vast majority are thought to be mistakes. Miles Parks, NPR, 12 Apr. 2024 President Joe Biden called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the war in Gaza a mistake and urged his government to flood the beleaguered territory with aid, ramping up pressure on Israel to reach a cease-fire and widening a rift between the two staunch allies. Tia Goldenberg and Wafaa Shurafa, The Christian Science Monitor, 10 Apr. 2024 Boeing hasn’t acknowledged the specific accusations in the federal report, although CEO Dave Calhoun admitted the company made a mistake and said in response to the probe that Boeing is ultimately responsible. David Goldman, CNN, 10 Apr. 2024 Before Gould, such splices, inserts, dubbings and other tools of the recording engineers were generally seen as remedies for brief mistakes, sometimes of a single note. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 9 Apr. 2024 The retractions and new allegations add to a larger, ongoing debate in science about how to protect scientific integrity and reduce the incentives that could lead to misconduct or unintentional mistakes in research. Evan Bush, NBC News, 9 Apr. 2024 Israel’s account of its attack on a World Central Kitchen convoy raises significant legal questions even if the strike was the result of a series of mistakes, experts say. Amanda Taub, New York Times, 8 Apr. 2024 Even now, with the scaffolding dismantled and the panels beginning to soak up the late-winter sunlight, critics are eager to point out why the project was a mistake. Mark Landler, New York Times, 30 Mar. 2024 The two-time unanimous American League MVP’s first home at-bat didn’t go to plan though, hitting a double into the right-field gap before being thrown out between second and third base in a rare base-running mistake when his teammate Mookie Betts didn’t attempt to run home. Ben Morse, CNN, 29 Mar. 2024

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

Word History


Verb and Noun

Middle English

First Known Use


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


1600, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near mistake

Cite this Entry

“Mistake.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mistake. Accessed 22 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
mis·​take mə-ˈstāk How to pronounce mistake (audio)
mistook -ˈstu̇k How to pronounce mistake (audio) ; mistaken -ˈstā-kən How to pronounce mistake (audio) ; mistaking
: to understand wrongly : misinterpret
mistook my meaning
: to estimate incorrectly
mistook the strength of the enemy
: to identify wrongly
mistook me for her
mistakenly adverb


2 of 2 noun
: a wrong judgment : misunderstanding
: a wrong action or statement

Legal Definition


: 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
: an erroneous belief: as
: 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
: a misconception at the time of an offense alleged by a defendant
mistake of fact
: a mistake regarding a fact or facts especially that significantly affects the performance of a contract
: 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

More from Merriam-Webster on mistake

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