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

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 Its capabilities will surely be sufficient for most weekend adventurers, many of whom likely won't mind if passersby mistake it for its big brother. Scott Oldham, Car and Driver, "2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands Earns the Bronco Name," 7 Dec. 2020 The court also downplayed Future Proof’s argument that the two products sounded similar enough that servers in noisy bars could mistake the two when a customer ordered. Jack Greiner, The Enquirer, "Strictly Legal: Getting 'izzy' with it," 24 Dec. 2020 Someone knocked at the door, perhaps one of the strangers who mistake our suite for the hearing clinic down the hall. Allan Ripp, WSJ, "Scenes From Pompeii—or Maybe My Abandoned Manhattan Office," 18 Dec. 2020 Couriers have been known to injure their ankles — or become the subject of police calls made by neighbors who mistake them for burglars. New York Times, "Delivery Workers in South Korea Say They’re Dying of ‘Overwork’," 15 Dec. 2020 It's painted with amazing details and lifelike features that anyone could easily mistake for the real thing. Will Brantley, Field & Stream, "The 2020 Turkey Hunter’s Holiday Gift Guide," 24 Nov. 2020 Do not mistake permission to feel afraid in times of flux as permission to cower. Christopher Gregory, National Geographic, "What led to this historic flood of young voters?," 2 Nov. 2020 But there’s no way to mistake Venus for Jupiter, or vice versa, because – at present – Jupiter rules the evening sky while Venus is up at dawn. Paul Douglas, Star Tribune, "Sunny & Spectacular This Weekend," 28 Aug. 2020 Just don't mistake downtown Detroit's convention center for an ice arena in Toledo. Jc Reindl, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit's TCF Center may soon share a new name with Toledo," 14 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Many of the numbers that emerged during the trial seemed to have a zero or two added to them by mistake. New York Times, "It’s Mother vs. Son in Britain’s Priciest Divorce War," 5 Jan. 2021 He’s enlisted by mistake to be her mentor, but 22 is a tough case. Joe Morgenstern, WSJ, "‘Soul’ Review: Riffing Joyously on the Theme of Life," 22 Dec. 2020 Last year, for example, a federal appeals court found that a police officer who shot a 10-year-old by mistake while aiming for the family's dog was protected from liability under qualified immunity. NBC News, "Colorado tries new way to punish rogue cops," 18 Dec. 2020 Conveniently, there is an auto-shutoff feature that makes sure it’s not left on by mistake. Sarah Vincelette, USA TODAY, "25 thoughtful get-well-soon gifts to send to loved ones," 9 Dec. 2020 Ghazni's provincial council chief, Nesar Ahmad Faqiri, said Tuesday that Afghan military helicopters were attempting to target Taliban militants in the village, and hit the children by mistake. Star Tribune, "Afghan gov't airstrikes kill 2 children, officials say," 1 Dec. 2020 Corrections officers released several inmates from lockup by mistake. Adam Ferrise, cleveland, "Disgraced ex-Cuyahoga County Jail warden’s tells FBI, Ohio AG, he was powerless to stop deaths, flow of drugs in troubled jail," 29 Nov. 2020 An interim analysis of trials in Britain and Brazil showed the vaccine was 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in 131 patients who got a half-dose of the vaccine by mistake. Peter Fimrite, SFChronicle.com, "Coronavirus treatments and vaccines. Here are the latest developments," 29 Nov. 2020 While the agreement was signed in October, it was apparently done so by mistake and revoked by KSP. Jonathan Bullington, The Courier-Journal, "LMPD fatal shooting: Mayor's office has 'confidence' in KSP despite delay on body cam video," 27 Nov. 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

17 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Mistake.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mistake. Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.

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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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