mis·​take | \mə-ˈstāk \
mistook\-​ˈstu̇k \; mistaken\-​ˈstā-​kən \; 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


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


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

There will be no mistaking Lagerfeld’s iconic uniform with a platinum pony, dark sunnies, and a black and white suit. Cameron Glover, Allure, "11 Halloween Costumes That You Can Do With Just a Wig," 9 Oct. 2018 When giant hogweed reaches its full height of 14 feet, there's no mistaking it: The lobed leaves span 5 feet across and the flowers alone grow 1 to 2 feet wide. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "QUIZ: Can You Identify These Dangerous Summer Plants and Bugs?," 3 Aug. 2018 Thus instructed, there was no reason to believe that there was any sly misdirection, no bitter irony, no mistaking the intent. Robin Givhan, Houston Chronicle, "Nothing else Melania Trump wears will ever matter again," 13 July 2018 But by Tuesday morning, there can be no mistaking the amount of Jerry Richardson’s hubris in the face of the most embarrassing episode of his nearly 82-year-old life. Jonathan Jones, SI.com, "Jerry Richardson's Hubris Remains Immortalized in His Statue," 10 July 2018 But there is no mistaking their crucial contribution. Amy Whitaker, WSJ, "The Eureka Moment That Made Bitcoin Possible," 25 May 2018 Should the pre-release demo's performance issues be ironed out, there's no mistaking how handsome the final Days Gone product will look. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Days Gone world premiere hands-on: Have you played a zombie game before?," 22 May 2018 Aside from its performance on the track, there will be no mistaking the M5 Competition. Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY, "BMW says this 617-horsepower M5 beast is most powerful ever," 9 May 2018 The Warriors are a team better identified for the play of long-range shooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, but there's no mistaking the one-time league MVP Durant has on this team. Christopher Dabe, NOLA.com, "'It doesn't matter who you put on K.D.': Durant's 38 leads against Pelicans," 6 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

That said, shorter formats introduce an element of randomness—there is no time to correct for mistakes. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "A Black Eye, a Controversial Leak and Possible Armageddon—the Madness of the World Chess Championship," 27 Nov. 2018 By learning from the mistakes of the past, perhaps today’s transit advocates can use similar challenges to create critical mass for change. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "Public transit’s missed opportunity," 20 Nov. 2018 These games are a bit older, and many have been available for cheap in past Humble bundles or Steam sales, but make no mistake: This is a heavy-hitting, long-lasting group of games. Brad Chacos, PCWorld, "The $12 Humble WB Games Classics Bundle brings the hits with Batman, Mad Max, and Mordor," 24 Oct. 2018 That being said, with the right set of guidelines, there are easy ways to avoid making the same painting mistakes in the future. Lucia Tonelli, ELLE Decor, "The Most Common Paint Problems And How To Avoid Them," 6 Sep. 2018 Seeing both is a helpful way of understanding the scope of the problems the region faces, as well as the potential for reversing some of the mistakes of the past. Nate Berg, Curbed, "Can engineering save Louisiana’s coastline?," 7 Nov. 2018 Over 35 years things could change and mistake could be made. Fox News, "Kavanaugh to speak to Senate Judiciary Committee staffers," 18 Sep. 2018 Samsung apologized for the mistake and issued a new return shipping label. Christopher Elliott, courant.com, "The Phones Were Returned, But Samsung Kept The $2,032," 11 July 2018 Fernandinho was condemned both for his own goal and for the mistake that led to Kevin De Bruyne’s brilliant strike in the 2-1 defeat. Jonathan Wilson, SI.com, "The Danger of Overreacting to Brazil's Disappointing World Cup Exit," 7 July 2018

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


Middle English


see mistake entry 1

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Dictionary Entries near mistake








Statistics for mistake

Last Updated

17 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for mistake

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

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More Definitions for mistake



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 \
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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