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

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 Even with a reflective bejeweled mask covering half of Beyoncé’s face, there was no mistaking her for anyone else. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "Of Course Beyoncé’s On the Run II Costumes Are Flawless," 6 June 2018 The pencil sketches are a little rough and time-worn, but there’s no mistaking that mouse for anyone else. Chris Kaltenbach, baltimoresun.com, "Geppi's Entertainment Museum to close as comic and art collection heads to Library of Congress," 30 May 2018 There’s no mistaking that there will be some grief over the years that were lost. Jeff Truesdell, PEOPLE.com, "House of Horrors Siblings' Move to New Home Marks 'Wonderful' Turn in Their Recovery: Expert," 24 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 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, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Florida concealed weapons permits: 2012 probe found more state agency errors," 3 July 2018 The energy of Marvin Bagley III Rookies are going to make mistakes. Jason Jones, sacbee, "Five things to watch for from the Kings as NBA summer league play tips off," 1 July 2018 Harvey was tasked with looking into whether police commanders, including police Chief Steve Conrad, made mistakes in responding to the abuse allegations in the Explorer program, which was for youths interested in law enforcement careers. Phillip M. Bailey, The Courier-Journal, "Council President says Explorer Scout report to be released Wednesday," 24 June 2018 Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture! Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump Could Accidentally Help Save Angela Merkel," 22 June 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

24 Sep 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

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one that holds something together

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