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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

transitive verb

: to blunder in the choice of
mistook her way in the dark
: to misunderstand the meaning or intention of : misinterpret
don't mistake me, I mean exactly what I said
: to make a wrong judgment of the character or ability of
The army's leaders mistook the strength of the enemy.
: 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 youThomas Hardy
mistakenly adverb
mistaker noun


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: a wrong judgment : misunderstanding
: a wrong action or statement proceeding from faulty judgment, inadequate knowledge, or inattention
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
Jean-Pierre dismissed concerns about Biden’s misstatements, noting recent instances when House Speaker Mike Johnson mistook Iran for Israel and Fox News host Sean Hannity confused former Representative Jason Chaffetz for Matt Gaetz. Justin Sink, Fortune, 9 Feb. 2024 Still, there’s no mistaking the fact that the Sahara Desert is, well, a desert. Stephen C. George, Discover Magazine, 5 Feb. 2024 You could be forgiven for mistaking this statement for something that segregationist Arkansas governor Orval Faubus might have said to defend racial separation. William E. Trachman, National Review, 4 Feb. 2024 It may have also been intended to ensure US strikes were not mistaken for the work of Israel, which could have sparked retaliation against the Israelis and risked another cycle of escalation. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, 2 Feb. 2024 Opponents feared that young children would mistake edibles for candy, with potentially dangerous consequences. Scooty Nickerson, The Mercury News, 26 Jan. 2024 Demna goes on to tell me how a customer in the store mistook him for an Erewhon employee, thanks to his all-black outfit. Nathan Taylor Pemberton, Rolling Stone, 20 Jan. 2024 The drone was probably able to slip past defenses at Tower 22 because American personnel mistook it for one of their own returning from a surveillance mission, two U.S. officials said on Monday. Luis Martinez, ABC News, 29 Jan. 2024 Muriel McKay, the wife of Rupert Murdoch’s deputy, was mistaken for Murdoch’s actual wife and kidnapped in 1969 Muriel’s body has never been recovered but brothers Arthur and Nizamodeen Hosein were later convicted of her kidnapping and murder. Emily Palmer, Peoplemag, 29 Jan. 2024
The Chiefs’ biggest mistake happened in the red zone, though; after a Mahomes 52-yard pass to Hardman set up the Chiefs 9, Isiah Pacheco fumbled on the next snap, with the 49ers’ Javon Hargrave recovering. Jesse Newell, Kansas City Star, 12 Feb. 2024 The program makes occasional mistakes — a running joke concerns the pronunciation of Shia LaBeouf — that the artists cherish. Michael Paulson, New York Times, 12 Feb. 2024 Conclusion: Though a pricey extension for Waddle will put the Dolphins in even greater cap hell, trading him would probably be a mistake. Barry Jackson, Miami Herald, 12 Feb. 2024 The rule, announced on May 4, 2015, has to do with mistakes. Kelly Phillips Erb, Forbes, 12 Feb. 2024 That was a moral victory because a costly mistake on an element in the short program a year ago had left her in 11th place, giving her a steep climb to her eventual fifth-place finish. Helene Elliott, Los Angeles Times, 12 Feb. 2024 Some students think that native speakers never make mistakes and their work is flawless. Sponsored Content, The Mercury News, 9 Feb. 2024 Her team is expected to argue that she has been made into a scapegoat for the mistakes of others — including the production team, the man who supplied the ammunition and Baldwin himself. Gene Maddaus, Variety, 7 Feb. 2024 But to resume funding for UNRWA would be a massive mistake. The Editors, National Review, 31 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'mistake.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Verb and Noun

Middle English

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


1600, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near mistake

Cite this Entry

“Mistake.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mistake. Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
mis·​take mə-ˈstāk How to pronounce mistake (audio)
mistook -ˈstu̇k How to pronounce mistake (audio) ; mistaken -ˈstā-kən How to pronounce mistake (audio) ; mistaking
: to understand wrongly : misinterpret
mistook my meaning
: to estimate incorrectly
mistook the strength of the enemy
: to identify wrongly
mistook me for her
mistakenly adverb


2 of 2 noun
: a wrong judgment : misunderstanding
: a wrong action or statement

Legal Definition


: 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
: an erroneous belief: as
: 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
: a misconception at the time of an offense alleged by a defendant
mistake of fact
: a mistake regarding a fact or facts especially that significantly affects the performance of a contract
: 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

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