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 Partisan news sites have also sprung up, all with innocuous names that an unwitting reader could mistake for just a normal local newspaper. Ashley Nerbovig, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan again a target of election disinformation," 29 Oct. 2020 Don’t mistake Davis’ words for arrogance or a false sense of security, though. Mark Medina, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Lakers have enough self awareness, confidence to rectify Game 3 loss to Heat in NBA Finals," 5 Oct. 2020 The invention eliminated the need to make sudden movements that law enforcement might mistake as aggressive. Liz Sawyer, Star Tribune, "'Not Reaching' pouch lauded as a potential lifesaver for Black motorists," 28 Oct. 2020 Players control Mono, whereas Six is an AI character, but don’t mistake this for a long escort mission. Washington Post, "30 minutes with ‘Little Nightmares II’: Building upon the scares of the original," 23 Oct. 2020 Do not mistake shadow boards as a crisis-mitigation function. Rebecca Robins, Quartz at Work, "Your company needs a shadow board of young, non-executive talent," 15 Oct. 2020 Many people will contract COVID-19 and mistake it for the flu, and the other way around. Grace Schneider, The Courier-Journal, "With new coronavirus cases emerging, Kentucky health leaders worry about fall's advance," 2 Oct. 2020 Fortunately, there are more disciplined minds, like Escobar's and Greenfield's, than those who, quixotic about online fantasies, mistake their pocket monsters for reality. Virginia Heffernan, Wired, "The Fantasy of Pokémon Go Is More Important Than Ever," 22 Sep. 2020 One of the most quiet coaches one ever could meet, don’t mistake that for a lack of passion or his demand for excellence. Mike Pervel, NOLA.com, "Craig Jones: 'Our staff is a true coaching family'," 30 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun His mistake was not making sure to throw it forward, ensuring a harmless incompletion. San Diego Union-Tribune, "3 Things We Learned ... in the Aztecs’ 28-17 loss to San Jose State," 7 Nov. 2020 Nearly flawless through three quarters, Pratt saved his first big mistake for when Tulane already led 31-7. G Smith, NOLA.com, "Passing fancy: Tulane airs it out early against East Carolina with freshman Michael Pratt," 7 Nov. 2020 State elections officials scrambled to rectify their mistake before the general election. Hallie Miller, baltimoresun.com, "Coronavirus in Maryland: 5 takeaways from the week," 6 Nov. 2020 The 49ers were finally forced to admit their mistake with a high draft pick, when the team waived receiver Dante Pettis, a second-round pick, on Tuesday. Ann Killion, SFChronicle.com, "Hell Week didn’t get any better for 49ers, who were blown out by Packers," 5 Nov. 2020 Indiana beat mistake-prone Rutgers 37-21 on Saturday. Tom Canavan, chicagotribune.com, "Michael Penix Jr. and No. 17 Indiana improve to 2-0 in the Big Ten for the 1st time in 29 years with a 37-21 win over Rutgers," 31 Oct. 2020 Maybe the software would have realized its mistake and hit the brakes at the last second. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "“Oh Jeeeesus”: Drivers react to Tesla’s full self-driving beta release," 30 Oct. 2020 As McLaughlin said after the race, his mistake midway through the race, locking his brakes while trying to make a block shortly after a restart, was just one of likely several growing pains the three-time Supercars champ will face in 2021. Nathan Brown, The Indianapolis Star, "Late chaos, unforced errors, Newgarden & Dixon: Insider thoughts on IndyCar's St. Pete finale," 27 Oct. 2020 He was redeemed when the magazine published a short story by him based on the death of his older brother at 29 — what Mr. Menaker would refer to as his biggest mistake. Sam Roberts, New York Times, "Daniel Menaker, Book Editor Who Wrote With Wit, Dies at 79," 27 Oct. 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

12 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Mistake.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mistake. Accessed 23 Nov. 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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