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

Marcus’ self-portrait is rendered in orange and green, while an enormous pink tongue, that could be mistaken for a tail, protrudes from his mouth. Dallas News, "A Dallas art gallery examines identity in 'How It Looks To Be You In Egyptian Cotton'," 23 Aug. 2019 With glass interior walls, exposed plumbing and a staff of young researchers dressed like Urban Outfitters models, New York University’s AI Now Institute could easily be mistaken for the offices of any one of New York’s innumerable tech startups. Alejandro De La Garza, Time, "Meet the Researchers Working to Make Sure Artificial Intelligence Is a Force for Good," 23 Aug. 2019 Stopped our show tonight due to a motorcycle backfire that was mistaken for a bomb or a shooting. CBS News, "Motorcycle backfire stirs panic in NYC's Times Square as crowd mistakes sound for gunshot," 7 Aug. 2019 Matthews understands his perspective can be mistaken for indifference. Eric Branch, SFChronicle.com, "49ers receiver Jordan Matthews at peace on roster bubble," 5 Aug. 2019 Waterstones faced criticism for opening some unbranded stores that could easily be mistaken for indie shop. Sarah Todd, Quartz, "Barnes & Noble’s fate rests in the hands of a British indie bookstore owner," 21 July 2019 As a prose stylist, McCulley isn’t likely to be mistaken for the creator of a far more famous Lolita. Michael Dirda, Washington Post, "Johnston McCulley dreamed up Zorro 100 years ago. The masked avenger is still a thrill.," 10 July 2019 The Pacific Gophersnake is the most common snake in Northern California and is often mistaken for a rattler. Rebecca Jepsen, The Mercury News, "Love ’em or hate ’em, snakes are good for your garden," 12 June 2019 When power flows to the EmDrive, the copper cone heats up and expands, which shifts its center of gravity just enough to cause the torsion balance to register force that can be mistaken as thrust. Daniel Oberhaus, WIRED, "A Mythical Form of Space Propulsion Finally Gets a Real Test," 5 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Nevertheless, the Jaguars were troubled by mistakes, including three turnovers — two of them red zone interceptions, and the other a fumble at the 1. Creg Stephenson | Cstephenson@al.com, al, "South Alabama cranks up running game for 37-14 win over Jackson State," 8 Sep. 2019 But the errors didn’t inspire confidence — especially after Michigan’s season-opener against Middle Tennessee was riddled with mistakes, too. Erick Smith, USA TODAY, "No. 7 Michigan survives upset bid from Army in overtime," 7 Sep. 2019 Questions continue to linger surrounding USC’s secondary, but aside from a few youthful mistakes, the unit was fine enough in its debut, holding a less-than-stellar Fresno State passer under 50%. Ryan Kartje, Los Angeles Times, "USC-Stanford: A look at how the teams match up," 6 Sep. 2019 But the boneheaded factor gives us pause: The likelihood that USC, not Stanford, will make a game-turning mistake (penalty, turnover) or that the USC sideline will keep Stanford in the game with a baffling decision. Jon Wilner, The Mercury News, "Picks of the week: Conference games, rivalry games, revenge games … Week Two should be riveting," 5 Sep. 2019 Two mistakes too many Louisville's margin for error in this game was always going to be tiny. Gentry Estes, The Courier-Journal, "Instant Analysis: Lots for Louisville to like vs. Notre Dame — except the result," 2 Sep. 2019 Last year, in one of Fidesz’s occasional political mistakes, the government passed laws allowing companies to demand that employees work longer overtime to be paid for at a later date. The Economist, "How Viktor Orban hollowed out Hungary’s democracy," 29 Aug. 2019 That, Syed’s current counsel argues, is a big mistake, especially since the state’s case hinged on the jury buying the timeline prosecutors presented. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "The US Supreme Court is faced with the podcast-popular case of Adnan Syed," 22 Aug. 2019 To see women as innocent wallflowers in need of protection could prove a deadly mistake when women were serving as smugglers, scouts, decoys, insurgents, and combatants; ignore them at your peril. Brenda Wineapple, The New Republic, "Who wrote women out of Civil War history?," 16 Aug. 2019

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

27 Aug 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).


formidable, illustrious, or eminent

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