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

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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

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.”
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb But don’t mistake Jenkins’ hesitancy to have her heart broken (again) for weakness. Joseph Hudak, Rolling Stone, "RS Country Music Picks for the Week of April 12th," 12 Apr. 2021 Radiocesium is soluble in water, and plants can mistake it for potassium, a vital nutrient that shares similar chemical properties. Nikk Ogasa, Science | AAAS, "Nuclear fallout is showing up in U.S. honey, decades after bomb tests," 20 Apr. 2021 No one would mistake this political dance as elegant. Philip Elliott, Time, "Corporations Struggle to Back Voting Rights and Protect the Bottom Line," 13 Apr. 2021 In the wake of Mr. Wright’s death on Sunday, Mr. Walz and other officials in Minnesota called for policing reforms, including making sure that officers cannot mistake their guns for their Taser. New York Times, "Minnesota Officer Who Shot Daunte Wright Meant to Fire Taser, Chief Says," 12 Apr. 2021 First, this is a collection of producers of delicious wines, but don’t mistake it for a conclusive ranking. Esther Mobley, San Francisco Chronicle, "COVID restrictions are lifting in the Bay Area. It's time to go wine tasting," 25 Mar. 2021 Some people intentionally ingest hand sanitizers, but sometimes people place sanitizer or other chemicals in drinking containers and mistake it for water, Roland said. Audrey Jensen, The Arizona Republic, "Banner Health says medical incidents involving hand sanitizer more than doubled in 2020," 16 Mar. 2021 Don't mistake Greiner's activity with Skubal and Mize as a personal catcher situation. Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press, "Why Tigers backup Grayson Greiner, not Wilson Ramos, is catching Tarik Skubal, Casey Mize," 6 Apr. 2021 The message is pointed: beware the whiplash of quick conversions and never mistake fervency for depth of commitment. Justin Taylor, Harper's Magazine, "Every True Pleasure Is a Secret," 16 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Workplace safety is paramount, especially in restaurants where a mistake in handling a dangerous piece of equipment can lead to great physical harm and even the death of a colleague. Johnny C. Taylor Jr., USA TODAY, "How can hard work be recognized while working remotely? Ask HR," 4 May 2021 García then committed a grievous base-running mistake, however, getting picked off first base to end the inning and keep it 4-3. Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Phillies 4, Brewers 3: Depite return of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, offense sputters for the most part," 3 May 2021 Dear Helpless: Loving one child more than the other most certainly qualifies as a mistake. cleveland, "Dear Annie: How do I make amends for treating my children differently when they were young?," 2 May 2021 Dear Helpless: Loving one child more than the other most certainly qualifies as a mistake. Annie Lane, oregonlive, "Dear Annie: Mother wants to make amends for loving her son less than her daughter," 2 May 2021 In 2012, the FTC commissioned a study and discovered 1 in 5 Americans had a mistake on their credit report. Danielle James, Essence, "6 Ways To Better Credit (Even If You Don’t Make A Lot Of Money)," 28 Apr. 2021 By issuing recommendations that are simultaneously too timid and too complicated, the CDC is repeating a mistake that’s hounded America’s pandemic response. Zeynep Tufekci, The Atlantic, "The CDC Is Still Repeating Its Mistakes," 28 Apr. 2021 Goldman, the veteran law professor, has weighed in on the muni-shuffle in St. Ann, the abuses in McFarland, Cleveland's mistake in hiring Loehmann - all during a four-decade crusade against wandering cops. Star Tribune, "Wandering cops shuffle departments, abusing citizens," 28 Apr. 2021 Some brushed off the controversy as a single mistake in a coach’s otherwise sterling career. BostonGlobe.com, "In Duxbury, a celebrated football team with a boorish underside," 28 Apr. 2021

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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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

5 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Mistake.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mistake. Accessed 12 May. 2021.

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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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