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

During the setup process, users can add a list of residents’ plates, to avoid mistaking a neighbor for an interloper. Los Angeles Times, "Neighbors are using these smart cameras to track strangers’ cars — and yours," 13 Sep. 2019 The hope, according to local station 8KPAX, was that drivers would mistake the hair dryer for a speed gun and ease up on the gas pedal. Alejandro De La Garza, Time, "Montana Woman Named 'Honorary Trooper' for Slowing Cars Down With a Hair Dryer," 15 Sep. 2019 Travolta found himself in the center of yet another viral award show moment on Monday night when some viewers claimed the actor may have mistaken Taylor Swift impersonator Jade Jolie for the actual singer while on stage. Sandra Gonzalez, CNN, "John Travolta has an admirably positive spin on his perceived VMAs flub," 30 Aug. 2019 John Travolta mistook Jade Jolie for Taylor Swift when handing over the award for ‘Video of the Year.’ -- pic.twitter.com/z8MsJtcp1V Check out reactions to Travolta's flub below. Stephen Daw, Billboard, "John Travolta Handed the VOTY Award to the Wrong Taylor Swift at the VMAs and Yep, There's Video," 26 Aug. 2019 While no one will ever mistake the Rose Bowl for a bar, the intimacy with which those two songs were performed almost did the trick. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Review: Rolling Stones rock Rose Bowl as NASA announces ‘Rolling Stones Rock’ on Mars," 23 Aug. 2019 That list includes being mistaken for a delivery man as opposed to the owner of his own company as well as having security called on him while waiting to present at a sales meeting. Fortune, "What I Learned in Inclusion Training at the World’s Top Cocktail Festival," 10 Aug. 2019 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Granted, mistakes have been made since Sept. 11, 2001. Ed Clendaniel, The Mercury News, "Clendaniel: Remembering Sept. 11, a day of fear and resolve," 11 Sep. 2019 Both teams led a balanced attack from there, but Gerstell capitalized on a few of the Falcons mistakes to pick up a 2-1 lead early in the second half. Megan Woodward, baltimoresun.com/maryland/carroll, "Girls Soccer: Winters Mill uses pair of second-half goals to overcome Gerstell in season opener," 11 Sep. 2019 Trump spent the ensuing week lashing out at journalists about their coverage of the mistake. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "The Trump Organization’s Hostile Takeover of the U.S. Government," 10 Sep. 2019 One of the biggest mistakes backyard chefs make is cooking thick cuts at too-high heat to accelerate cooking. Jeff Csatari, Popular Mechanics, "The Ultimate Grilling Guide," 30 Aug. 2019 Is British Airways offering any compensation for the mistake? Louis Cheslaw, Condé Nast Traveler, "We Sorted Through All the Confusion Around British Airways' Flight Cancellations," 26 Aug. 2019 The Pride had squashed this issue in recent weeks, but repeated the mistake with the early mishandle by goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris that allowed the Spirit to take the lead in the opening 10 minutes of play. Julia Poe, Pro Soccer USA, "Marc Skinner looks ahead after loss drops Orlando Pride to bottom of table," 26 Aug. 2019 Cincinnati police issued a new photo correcting their mistake. Madeline Mitchell, Cincinnati.com, "Police: Man arrested in California in connection to Westwood homicide," 22 Aug. 2019 Then on the Sun Devils’ next drive, the Spartans made some costly, uncharacteristic defensive mistakes. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State football upended by penalties, miscues in 10-7 loss to Arizona State," 15 Sep. 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

8 Oct 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

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fear of the number 13

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