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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

transitive verb

: to blunder in the choice of
mistook her way in the dark
: to misunderstand the meaning or intention of : misinterpret
don't mistake me, I mean exactly what I said
: to make a wrong judgment of the character or ability of
The army's leaders mistook the strength of the enemy.
: 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 youThomas Hardy
mistakenly adverb
mistaker noun


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: a wrong judgment : misunderstanding
: a wrong action or statement proceeding from faulty judgment, inadequate knowledge, or inattention
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
Back when Blade Runner came out, some reviewers mistook its futuristic, sci-fi opulence for Josef von Sternberg’s sensual expressiveness. Armond White, National Review, 24 Nov. 2023 In rare cases, people mistake rhabdomyolysis (rhabdo) for DOMS. Lauren Del Turco, Health, 20 Nov. 2023 There’s no mistaking Frederick Douglass — reimagined as, what, Doug E. Fresh? Petula Dvorak, Washington Post, 16 Nov. 2023 Therefore, onychomycosis can be mistaken for other conditions if samples aren’t collected. Nick Blackmer, Verywell Health, 16 Nov. 2023 But there is no mistaking the breadth and ambition of the shift Mr. Trump is eyeing. Jonathan Swan, New York Times, 11 Nov. 2023 That result shouldn't be mistaken for a sudden surge in support for Biden. Rick Klein, ABC News, 7 Nov. 2023 True to size, they are designed with a comfy memory foam insole and faux leather upper that could perhaps even be mistaken for real leather. Erika Reals, Peoplemag, 19 Oct. 2023 Insurers Confusing Claim File Requests With Appeals At least five people told ProPublica that, after submitting a request for a claim file, their health insurer mistook the request for an appeal. Maya Miller, ProPublica, 8 Nov. 2023
Authorities have revised the acreage burned from 83 acres down to 39 — and blamed the number error on a pilot’s mistake. City News Service, San Diego Union-Tribune, 27 Nov. 2023 The attack on my character is full of mistakes and omissions. Nina Corcoran, Pitchfork, 25 Nov. 2023 Maybe your only mistake has been to complain about this legitimate source of confidence. Carolyn Hax, Washington Post, 24 Nov. 2023 Travis Kelce’s spelling mistakes over 10 years ago are inspiring a change to a Chipotle restaurant. Sabrina Weiss, Peoplemag, 21 Nov. 2023 Reckoning with the mistakes of the past allows these characters to set a more authentic course for the future. Staff, The Christian Science Monitor, 21 Nov. 2023 It’s designed to eliminate smudges and mistakes, ensuring sharp, precise lines for a flawless makeup look. Kathy Barr, Rolling Stone, 21 Nov. 2023 Williams compounded Branch’s mistake by throwing an interception on USC’s next drive. Thuc Nhi Nguyen, Los Angeles Times, 19 Nov. 2023 Argentina made a fundamental mistake before WW1 in believing that an agricultural export market alone could power its rise to international power status. John Fund, National Review, 18 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'mistake.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Verb and Noun

Middle English

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


1600, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near mistake

Cite this Entry

“Mistake.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mistake. Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
mis·​take mə-ˈstāk How to pronounce mistake (audio)
mistook -ˈstu̇k How to pronounce mistake (audio) ; mistaken -ˈstā-kən How to pronounce mistake (audio) ; mistaking
: to understand wrongly : misinterpret
mistook my meaning
: to estimate incorrectly
mistook the strength of the enemy
: to identify wrongly
mistook me for her
mistakenly adverb


2 of 2 noun
: a wrong judgment : misunderstanding
: a wrong action or statement

Legal Definition


: 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
: an erroneous belief: as
: 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
: a misconception at the time of an offense alleged by a defendant
mistake of fact
: a mistake regarding a fact or facts especially that significantly affects the performance of a contract
: 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

More from Merriam-Webster on mistake

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