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

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.”
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb People often mistake these bumps for ingrown hairs, pimples or other conditions. Essence, 14 Dec. 2021 Executives in top management roles often mistake personal branding with showing off. Adriana Gattermayr, Forbes, 5 Nov. 2021 Don’t mistake a fluke 49-42 win against Florida as a sign of life. Christopher Smith, al, 1 Nov. 2021 Often people mistake historic preservation for freezing a town at a moment in time, Lisa Mullin Thompson with the Kentucky Heritage Council’s State Historic Preservation Office explained. Maggie Menderski, The Courier-Journal, 15 July 2021 People often mistake ocean sunfish, basking sharks and other harmless animals for white sharks, said Erin Summers, the director of the marine department’s biological monitoring division. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, 8 July 2021 Members often mistake that form for the gospel, and that conflation is hurting many of us. The Salt Lake Tribune, 26 May 2021 People on the street often mistake Sagal's voice for Janney's, leading to undeserved praise. Dan Snierson, EW.com, 8 Apr. 2021 Too often, students mistake noise for confidence and hope that those listening to them will too. Isaac Schorr, National Review, 17 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Kim Potter’s attorney Earl Gray, though, countered during closing arguments that the former Brooklyn Center officer made an honest mistake by pulling her handgun instead of her Taser and that shooting Wright wasn’t a crime. Amy Forliti And Scott Bauer, chicagotribune.com, 21 Dec. 2021 Bates — playing deep at the snap, to Herbert’s left — made a logical mistake in guessing that Guyton, charging toward an inside void, would run a deep post. Tom Krasovic, San Diego Union-Tribune, 13 Dec. 2021 Defense attorneys say the shooting was an innocent mistake, and that Potter immediately expressed remorse. Taylor Wilson, USA TODAY, 9 Dec. 2021 With 17 seconds to go, UConn made a pivotal mistake and allowed the Mountaineers to collect a pivotal offensive rebound on a free-throw that led to more chances at line after a foul by Cole. Shreyas Laddha, courant.com, 8 Dec. 2021 An honest mistake turned into a new holiday tradition – and that tradition is turning into a new Netflix movie. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, 3 Dec. 2021 The defense will counter that Potter made a tragic but ultimately innocent mistake by mixing up her weapons. Washington Post, 30 Nov. 2021 But Richard Coates, a prominent Republican attorney in Tallahassee who represented Jones, told the commission that his client made an unintentional mistake. Annie Martin, orlandosentinel.com, 17 Nov. 2021 That analysis, along with investigations from other news outlets, came days before the Pentagon acknowledged military officials had made a deadly mistake. Alex Horton, Dan Lamothe And Karoun Demirjian, Anchorage Daily News, 4 Nov. 2021

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.

See More

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

Learn More About mistake

Time Traveler for mistake

Time Traveler

The first known use of mistake was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near mistake




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for mistake

Last Updated

5 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Mistake.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mistake. Accessed 16 Jan. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

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 : error


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

More from Merriam-Webster on mistake

Nglish: Translation of mistake for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of mistake for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about mistake


Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!