• Distinguish


    • enPR: dĭs-tĭng'gwĭsh, IPA: /dɪsˈtɪŋɡwɪʃ/
    • Rhymes: -ɪŋɡwɪʃ


    From Middle English distingwen, from Old French distinguer, from Latin distinguere ("to separate, divide, distinguish, set off, adorn, literally mark off"), from di- for dis- ("apart") + stinguere; see sting, stigma, style. Compare extinguish.

    Full definition of distinguish


    1. To see someone or something as different from others.
      • 1922, De Lacy O'Leary, S:Arabic Thought and Its Place in History, It had begun to take a leading place even in the days of the Ptolemies, and in scientific, as distinguished from purely literary work, it had assumed a position of primary importance early in the Christian era.
      • 2012, Jeremy Bernstein, A Palette of Particles, The physics of elementary particles in the 20th century was distinguished by the observation of particles whose existence had been predicted by theorists sometimes decades earlier.
    2. To see someone or something clearly or distinctly.
    3. To make oneself noticeably different or better from others through accomplishments.
      • 1784: William Jones, The Description and Use of a New Portable Orrery, &c., PREFACETHE favourable reception the Orrery has met with from Perſons of the firſt diſtinction, and from Gentlemen and Ladies in general, has induced me to add to it ſeveral new improvements in order to give it a degree of Perfection; and diſtinguiſh it from others; which by Piracy, or Imitation, may be introduced to the Public.
    4. (transitive, obsolete) To make to differ.
      • Bible, 1 Cor. iv. 7 (Douay version)Who distinguisheth thee?

    Usage notes

    In sense “see a difference”, more casual than differentiate or the formal discriminate; more casual is “tell the difference”.


    (see a difference) differentiate, discriminate

    Related terms


    • (to see someone or something as different from others) confuse
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