View synonyms for distinguish


[ dih-sting-gwish ]

verb (used with object)

  1. to mark off as different (often followed by from or by ):

    He was distinguished from the other boys by his height.

  2. to recognize as distinct or different; recognize the salient or individual features or characteristics of:

    It is hard to distinguish her from her twin sister.

    Antonyms: confuse

  3. to perceive clearly by sight or other sense; discern; recognize:

    He could not distinguish many of the words.

  4. to set apart as different; be a distinctive characteristic of; characterize:

    It is his Italian accent that distinguishes him.

  5. to make prominent, conspicuous, or eminent:

    to distinguish oneself in battle.

  6. to divide into classes; classify:

    Let us distinguish the various types of metaphor.

  7. Archaic. to single out for or honor with special attention.

verb (used without object)

  1. to indicate or show a difference (usually followed by between ).
  2. to recognize or note differences; discriminate.


/ dɪˈstɪŋɡwɪʃ /


  1. whenintr, foll by between or among to make, show, or recognize a difference or differences (between or among); differentiate (between)
  2. to be a distinctive feature of; characterize
  3. to make out; perceive
  4. to mark for a special honour or title
  5. to make (oneself) noteworthy

    he distinguished himself by his cowardice

  6. to classify; categorize

    we distinguished three species

“Collins English Dictionary — Complete & Unabridged” 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

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Derived Forms

  • disˈtinguishably, adverb
  • disˈtinguishing, adjective
  • disˈtinguishingly, adverb
  • disˈtinguishable, adjective
  • disˈtinguisher, noun
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Other Words From

  • dis·tin·guish·a·ble adjective
  • dis·tin·guish·er noun
  • dis·tin·guish·ment noun
  • in·ter·dis·tin·guish verb (used with object)
  • pre·dis·tin·guish verb (used with object)
  • re·dis·tin·guish verb
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Word History and Origins

Origin of distinguish1

First recorded in 1555–65; extension, by -ish 2, of Middle English disting(u)en (from Anglo-French, Middle French distinguer ), from Latin distinguere; distinct
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Word History and Origins

Origin of distinguish1

C16: from Latin distinguere to separate, discriminate
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Synonym Study

Distinguish, differentiate, discriminate suggest an attempt to analyze characteristic features or qualities of things. To distinguish is to recognize the characteristic features belonging to a thing: to distinguish a light cruiser from a heavy cruiser. To discriminate is to perceive the particular, nice, or exact differences between things, to determine wherein these differences consist, and to estimate their significance: to discriminate prejudiced from unprejudiced testimony. To differentiate is to point out exactly and in detail the differences between (usually) two things: The symptoms of both diseases are so similar that it is hard to differentiate one from another.
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Example Sentences

I mean, this shouldn’t surprise anyone, making the ads harder to distinguish has been a Google trend.

If searchers have a harder time distinguishing between the paid and free listings, it might cause confusion on what listing the searcher clicks on.

Science fiction has long been distinguished by these dual impulses—leaving home and returning—when it’s not marked by the way that home leaves us, or deceives us when it’s no longer the place we recognize once we’re back.

In Voice, Police Officer Kang Kwon-Joo has a heightened ability to distinguish sounds, allowing her to solve crime cases as a voice profiler.

From Time

Filter Link Extensions are another way to distinguish your ads in SERPs.

After years at the head of a parochial school classroom, he could no longer distinguish one blond Irish Catholic kid from another.

The line between being careful about what you eat and being obsessive is difficult to distinguish.

Food business groups argue that a gram of sugar, natural or added, is a gram of sugar—so why distinguish it?

Then there was the attempt to distinguish her tax status from those who are “truly well off.”

Behind-the-scenes technological differences do not distinguish Aereo's system from cable systems, which do perform publicly.

In sorting notes it is necessary to be able readily to distinguish between notes of this bank and notes of other reserve banks.

This is a feature by means of which it is always possible to distinguish the Great Horsetail from any other species.

In the darkness and confusion I did not distinguish the face of the man who rendered me this assistance.

I had no idea who they were, as the Grand Duke was in morning costume, and had no star or decoration to distinguish him.

It reappears during a relapse, and thus helps to distinguish between a relapse and a complication, in which it does not reappear.