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

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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

Now, the art of sinking ink is extending into stitching: Known as embroidery or needlepoint tattoos, these aren’t your grandma’s pillow samplers—though some tats might well be mistaken for them. Ann Lien, House Beautiful, "These Embroidery Tattoos are Jaw-Droppingly Realistic," 10 Apr. 2019 And on Monday night during the VMAs, Jersey Shore's Angelina Pivarnick discovered yet another pitfall that comes with eschewing a bra: having your boob tape get mistaken for a nip slip. Emily Wang, Allure, "Angelina Pivarnick of Jersey Shore Is Responding to "Nip Slip" Comments and It's Just Like 2009 All Over Again," 21 Aug. 2018 But don’t mistake a lack of previous productivity for an absence of potential. Mike Vorel, The Seattle Times, "Washington opens spring football this week. These are the top story lines to watch.," 1 Apr. 2019 Don't mistake merit for certainty, though: Several of the convincing fan theories out there will bum you out. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "7 Stranger Things Season 3 Fan Theories That Will Turn Your Mind Upside Down," 22 Mar. 2019 They also may not be taken as seriously in the boardroom as men, and African-American female executives may be mistaken for more junior employees. WSJ, "Secrets of Wealthy Women: African-American Women on Overcoming Obstacles," 6 Feb. 2019 Right this way for a side-by-side photo of a young Carson and his father that could easily be mistaken for a shot of 2018 Carson and his son. Kelly O'sullivan, Country Living, "'The Voice' Host Carson Daly's Son Looks Exactly Like Him," 23 Dec. 2018 The rules here are clear: make sure prospective matches can see your face; don’t use too many selfies; steer clear of a bunch of group shots; and don’t post photos with someone who could be mistaken as (or was!) an ex. Ashley Carman, The Verge, "How to up your dating app game," 25 Oct. 2018 Our favorite so far is Hex On My Ex, a purple shimmer that's just witchy enough to be mistaken for Sabrina Spellman. Leah Prinzivalli, Allure, "Kylie Cosmetics Is Launching a Spooky Halloween Makeup Collection," 4 Oct. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

James did apologize for the comment, though, saying his mistake was a learning experience. Jasmine Gomez, Seventeen, "People Are Really Pissed At This Comment James Charles Made About His Met Gala Appearance," 8 May 2019 Have the two members of Congress learned from their mistakes in crafting landmark legislation ten years ago? James Freeman, WSJ, "The Last Time Pelosi and Schumer Cut a Big Infrastructure Deal," 1 May 2019 Case in point: After being declared the true king in the north, Jon travels south (mistake number one), falls in love with Dany (his aunt), bends the freakin’ knee, and then decides to bring her to Winterfell. Sarah Morse, Glamour, "Jon Snow's Biggest Mistakes on Game of Thrones," 30 Apr. 2019 Anywhere probably shouldn’t be thought of as a step ahead for Microsoft’s consumer ambitions; rather, this is a case of Microsoft fixing an obvious mistake. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Microsoft's decision to rejoin Movies Anywhere is a single step toward regaining consumer trust," 7 Aug. 2018 Limiting one of baseball’s top offenses was another sign that Yacabonis’ leap from reliever to starter wasn’t a mistake. Katherine Fominykh, baltimoresun.com, "Three months after disastrous debut, Orioles' Jimmy Yacabonis gets a do-over vs. Yankees," 10 July 2018 Parents said the mistake caused heartache for some high-achieving eighth-graders whose top choice was New York City Lab School for Collaborative Studies in Manhattan and who were rejected last month. ... Leslie Brody, WSJ, "Top New York City School Makes Big Admissions Error," 9 Apr. 2019 These are the mistakes Realtors see again and again—and how to overcome them. 1. Nancy Mann Jackson, House Beautiful, "The Top 5 Homebuying Mistakes Realtors Wish People Would Stop Making," 26 Feb. 2019 The man contacted Amazon about the mistake but at first got no response. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Amazon Alexa Sends Man 1,700 Recordings From a Stranger's House," 20 Dec. 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

Verb and Noun

Middle English

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Dictionary Entries near mistake








Statistics for mistake

Last Updated

21 May 2019

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 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

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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).


one that collects or salvages junk

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