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

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

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.” See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The story — with flashbacks featuring Gabriel LaBelle as a younger version of Julian and Melora Walters as his mother — tends to mistake darkness for insight. Daniel D'addario, Variety, 6 Sep. 2022 The bad news is that salespeople tend to mistake simple for simplistic. Julie Thomas, Forbes, 17 Aug. 2022 Many of Webb’s targets will be impossible to mistake for deli meats. Marina Koren, The Atlantic, 11 Aug. 2022 Chaos then erupted at Fourth of July celebrations in cities nationwide where people seemed to mistake the boom of fireworks for gunshots and scrambled for cover. Bryan Pietsch, Washington Post, 4 July 2022 It’s always dangerous to mistake marketing for value. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 12 May 2022 The clip actually came from a video game called D.C.S. World, whose grainy, wavering graphics are easy to mistake for authentic footage. Kyle Chayka, The New Yorker, 3 Mar. 2022 Two-thirds of the roughly 15 police officers who claimed to mistake their guns for their Tasers over the past two decades were never charged. New York Times, 17 Dec. 2021 But the movie seems to mistake the taut minimalism of the original for something that needs to be goosed and adrenalized, a thriller on constant defibrillator. Leah Greenblatt, EW.com, 10 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun This summer the Justices reversed that mistake in Dobbs, and the result has been hurly-burly democratic arguments in state legislatures. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 13 Sep. 2022 Trying to work only with people who are in absolute agreement with you, that’s a mistake. Kk Ottesen, Washington Post, 13 Sep. 2022 Of course, those withdrawals can be made at any time of the year, but many people leave it to the last minute, which could be an expensive mistake. Terry Savage, Orlando Sentinel, 12 Sep. 2022 That was a mistake made in the past, by the previous front office, but there’s no time for that now. Gregg Doyel, USA TODAY, 12 Sep. 2022 Coach John Harbaugh’s biggest mistake was allowing Jackson to throw that interception late in the game, which was a meaningless play in one regard, but eventually led to the injury of cornerback Kyle Fuller. Mike Preston, Baltimore Sun, 11 Sep. 2022 Newgarden had gone off course in a sloppy qualifying mistake that forced him to start 25th in the 26-driver field. Jenna Fryer, ajc, 11 Sep. 2022 French power distributor Electricite de Strasbourg SA oversold large quantities of electricity due to trading errors earlier this week, a mistake that could cost the company 60 million euros ($60.3 million). Gaspard Sebag, Fortune, 11 Sep. 2022 Pro-Kremlin political analyst Sergei Markov criticized the festivities in Moscow as a grave political mistake. Karl Ritter And Hanna Arhirova, Anchorage Daily News, 11 Sep. 2022 See More

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.

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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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

26 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Mistake.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mistake. Accessed 26 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for mistake


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

More from Merriam-Webster on mistake

Nglish: Translation of mistake for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of mistake for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about mistake


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