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

Keep scrolling for more

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 Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic disease that causes your immune system to kick into overdrive and mistake your body’s own healthy cells for a threat, according to the Mayo Clinic. Joni Sweet, SELF, "9 Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms You Should Know," 3 Aug. 2020 An untrained eye might mistake them for weeds, but Fatima knows each by name and culinary usage. TheWeek, "Meet the Syrian refugee who inspires entrepreneurship in Jordan," 1 Aug. 2020 But do not mistake this for a triumph of character or decency. Nancy Armour, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Cold, hard cash, not character, made Daniel Snyder change Washington's NFL nickname," 14 July 2020 But none of them would mistake the change in the air outside in the days ahead. Saja Hindi, The Denver Post, "How Colorado found the political will to pass a sweeping police reform law in just 16 days," 19 June 2020 Yet, no one should mistake this for a cheap motel, either. Mark Medina, USA TODAY, "Inside the NBA bubble: What is life like for the media on the Disney World campus?," 14 July 2020 No one will mistake it for a long-distance cruiser. Rich Ceppos, Car and Driver, "Tested: 1991 Ferrari F40 Feasts on the Timid," 2 July 2020 You might be tempted to mistake passion for love and silence for romance. Magi Helena, oregonlive, "Horoscope for June 27, 2020: Virgo, message confuses you; Capricorn, you’re hotter than you think," 27 June 2020 With an average summertime temperature of minus 18 degrees F, according to NASA, no one will mistake the South Pole for a tropical paradise. Doyle Rice, USA TODAY, "Researchers discover record warming at the South Pole over the past 3 decades," 29 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The bill from her sister's Texas senior care facility must be a mistake, Claire Harrison thought. Marisa Kwiatkowski, USA TODAY, "$1,200 coronavirus 'Control Chamber': Eldercare homes levy steep fees amid pandemic," 25 June 2020 But to infer he wasn’t fully engaged would be a mistake. Kevin Sherrington, Dallas News, "Mack Brown’s second act at North Carolina is already a rare feat for ex-Texas coaches and he’s just getting started," 10 July 2020 Tuberville acknowledged the business venture was a mistake but denied any wrongdoing. Mike Cason | Mcason@al.com, al, "Tommy Tuberville goes low profile to run out clock in runoff with Jeff Sessions," 10 July 2020 But from a big-picture standpoint, doubleheaders and one-day shows are easy to learn from, teams say, because every mistake, even at the smallest level, gets exaggerated. Nathan Brown, The Indianapolis Star, "With Penske looking to add more doubleheaders in 2021, teams recognize the work, benefits they bring," 9 July 2020 But Kekulé, the virology professor, believes that large-scale reopening and then locking down again is a mistake, and risks causing psychological or economic damage to those affected. Emma Reynolds, CNN, "Coronavirus spikes again in rush to reopen. But lockdowns are more complex second time around," 9 July 2020 The Cleveland-native focused on her failure to understand why considering the role was a mistake. cleveland, "Halle Berry apologizes for comments on playing a transgender man," 7 July 2020 That was a mistake, a Fox News spokeswoman said Monday. TheWeek, "Fox News says Trump was 'mistakenly eliminated' from Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell photo," 6 July 2020 Lorraine Sheppard’s son, Mike Sheppard, said the lack of consistent state and county guidance on admissions was a mistake. Washington Post, "Overwhelmed nursing homes kept taking new patients. Some got sick and died.," 6 July 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about mistake

Time Traveler for mistake

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for mistake

Last Updated

8 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Mistake.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mistake. Accessed 8 Aug. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on mistake

What made you want to look up mistake? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt painting a young scholar and his tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!