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

But do not mistake the players' lack of a response to Trump's criticisms for silence. Nancy Armour, USA TODAY, "This is how NFL players are responding to President Trump's rhetoric," 18 June 2018 Clark was shot by police last Sunday in Thompson's backyard with a cellphone in his hand that officers mistook for a gun. Ellen Garrison, sacbee, "Stephon Clark's family pastor says community shouldn't 'punish the good officers' | The Sacramento Bee," 25 Mar. 2018 The individual will not mistake your kindness for license, but on the contrary, feel all the more loyal. Susan Fales-hill, Town & Country, "How to Say You're Sorry (And Sound Like You Mean It)," 3 Apr. 2017 Officers have shot people after mistaking wrenches and badges for guns. German Lopez, Vox, "Police shootings are also part of America’s gun problem," 9 Apr. 2018 My neighbor across the street had his stone wall knocked down after a guest backed into it after mistaking his home for the hotel. Karen Berkowitz, chicagotribune.com, "Highland Park mansion's use of Airbnb spurs neighbor lawsuit: 'We have to clean up empty beer cans'," 10 July 2018 In April, National Geographic reported on a man who had taken a leopard cat from the wild after apparently mistaking it for a domestic kitten. Elaina Zachos, National Geographic, "Can People Really Mistake a Bear for a Dog, as This Family Claims?," 16 May 2018 The next day when Richard runs an errand, Stan comes on to Jen after mistaking her fun-loving nature for attraction. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, "Why 'Revenge' is the blood-drenched female-empowerment thriller for the Time's Up era," 8 May 2018 This poor child was mistaking motherly superiority with being patronizing. Sherry Kuehl, kansascity, "Mother to son: There's a vast difference between 'mansplaining' and 'momsplaining'," 26 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

While Brian Anderson’s immediate groundout probably would have resulted in a double play that erased Dietrich anyway, the mistake helped quell a promising Marlins rally. Matthew Defranks, Sun-Sentinel.com, "A Closer Look: Milwaukee Brewers 8, Miami Marlins 4," 11 July 2018 The Michigan man transferred the $19,000 to Hossain’s account — but received another call from Hossain the next day, saying the mistake had happened again, the affidavit said. Maria Elena Vizcaino, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Fraudster in Orlando tricked Michigan man into wiring $19K — twice, cops say," 11 July 2018 The mistakes were entertaining, but the essence of the story remained: It was about inspired strangers working within their means to help each other. Amanda Needham, chicagotribune.com, "Remember when I painted a huge note for the thief who stole my bike? Here's how the story ends.," 10 July 2018 The mistake — this isn't hindsight, not at all —was no choosing a path after 2016. Sam Mellinger, kansascity, "Mellinger Minutes: Chiefs' defense, Royals' place, Vick's surprise & the Sam Mellinger I never met," 3 July 2018 According to officials, the Morning News notes, mistakes had been made while calculating her academic standing. Breanna Edwards, The Root, "High School Valedictorian Stripped of Ranking Due to an Administrative Error, but She Thinks It's Retaliation for Critical Graduation Speech," 2 July 2018 The news has made Pagirsky wonder whether America has learned from Europe’s mistakes. Erin Coulehan, Glamour, "A Holocaust Survivor Reflects on the Lasting Impact of Family Separation and Deportation," 28 June 2018 For the 100th, time, yes, all media companies make mistakes. Bill Goodykoontz, azcentral, "How former Fox News exec Bill Shine is the perfect Trump hire," 6 July 2018 Several employees blamed the errors on computer glitches, while other said phone calls and other distractions might have caused them to make mistakes. Brendan Farrington, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Florida concealed weapons permits: 2012 probe found more state agency errors," 3 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

22 Oct 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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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).


exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

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