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

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 Don’t mistake the narrator’s quiet action for passivity. Grace Z. Li, USA TODAY, "'What Are You Going Through': Sigrid Nunez turns her empathetic eye on death in new novel," 8 Sep. 2020 We’re often told not to mistake the stock market for the economy. Timothy Noah, The New Republic, "Wall Street’s Greedy Indifference to Human Misery," 3 Sep. 2020 Nelson pointed out that Zoom has a private messaging feature that is frighteningly easy to mistake for the public messaging tab during a meeting, news that certainly will keep some people up at night. Reyhan Harmanci New York Times, Star Tribune, "Psst! Here's the latest on office gossip," 7 Sep. 2020 People sometimes mistake Monatsi as being much younger because of his size, and the sight of him protesting in his wheelchair alongside a gray-bearded White guy in leg braces has been confounding for some. Michael Laris, Washington Post, "Behind a father-and-son protest, a history of laughter and struggle," 3 Sep. 2020 The Swift 3 doesn't look particularly stylish—nobody's going to mistake it for a MacBook Air, XPS 13, or Dragonfly Elite—but its no-nonsense silver chassis and black display bezels aren't going to embarrass anybody, either. Jim Salter, Ars Technica, "Acer Swift 3 with Ryzen 4700U—a budget laptop punching above its class," 2 Sep. 2020 Sea turtles commonly mistake floating bags and balloons for their jellyfish prey. Catherine Eastman, The Conversation, "Newly hatched Florida sea turtles are consuming dangerous quantities of floating plastic," 31 Aug. 2020 Few voters, white, Black or brown, will mistake Mr. Trump for an empath. John Kass, Star Tribune, "How Trump became the education president," 26 Aug. 2020 But don't mistake those gains with a potential for a slowdown. Amie Just | Staff Writer, NOLA.com, "Saints DE Carl Granderson feels like a 'gazelle,' despite putting on 20 pounds," 24 Aug. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The Silver Spirit may not be quite the fastest machine available, but to lump it in with all the others in the soft-bellied lounge-car class would be a big mistake. Patrick Bedard, Car and Driver, "Tested: 1981 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit Rejuvenates Traditional Luxury," 23 Sep. 2020 That giveaway was a good example of how a small fundamental breakdown has the potential to cause a game-changing mistake. Dan Wiederer, chicagotribune.com, "Chicago Bears QB rewind: Was Mitch Trubisky’s strong first half more telling than his second-half struggles in Week 2?," 22 Sep. 2020 Herbert committed a rookie - but terrible - mistake late in the third quarter. oregonlive, "Justin Herbert impresses in his NFL debut, but he’ll return to the sideline if Tyrod Taylor is healthy for the Los Angeles Chargers," 21 Sep. 2020 Experts with knowledge of the incident said on Monday that the latest reversal appeared to be a genuine mistake in the agency’s scientific review process, rather than the result of political meddling. Apoorva Mandavilli, New York Times, "Advice on Airborne Virus Transmission Vanishes From C.D.C. Website," 21 Sep. 2020 Like Theranos before it, the electric-truck company shows it’s a mistake to hope startups can save the planet. Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, "The Nikola Scandal Is a Cautionary Tale About Green Tech’s Gauzy Promises," 21 Sep. 2020 Sharansky regards Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 as a terrible mistake. Jay Nordlinger, National Review, "Still Sharansky," 21 Sep. 2020 Giving Patrick Mahomes the ball in overtime Sunday was a mistake the NFL’s best quarterback turned into a victory for the defending Super Bowl champions, with an assist from amazing Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker. Tom Krasovic, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Chargers coach erred, giving Patrick Mahomes the ball in OT," 21 Sep. 2020 Roethlisberger tossed three touchdowns in a relatively solid and mistake-free 26-16 victory over the New York Giants. Mark Heim | Mheim@al.com, al, "Broncos vs. Steelers live stream (9/20): How to watch NFL Week 2 online, TV, time," 20 Sep. 2020

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

25 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Mistake.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mistake. Accessed 1 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for mistake


How to pronounce mistake (audio)

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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