[ dih-sting-gwish ]
See synonyms for: distinguishdistinguisheddistinguishesdistinguishing on Thesaurus.com

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.

  1. to perceive clearly by sight or other sense; discern; recognize: He could not distinguish many of the words.

  2. to set apart as different; be a distinctive characteristic of; characterize: It is his Italian accent that distinguishes him.

  3. to make prominent, conspicuous, or eminent: to distinguish oneself in battle.

  4. to divide into classes; classify: Let us distinguish the various types of metaphor.

  5. 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.

Origin of distinguish

First recorded in 1555–65; extension, by -ish2, of Middle English disting(u)en (from Anglo-French, Middle French distinguer ), from Latin distinguere; see distinct

synonym study For distinguish

2. 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.

Opposites for distinguish

Other words from distinguish

  • 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

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use distinguish in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for distinguish


/ (dɪˈstɪŋɡwɪʃ) /

verb(mainly tr)
  1. (when intr, 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

  1. to make out; perceive

  2. to mark for a special honour or title

  3. to make (oneself) noteworthy: he distinguished himself by his cowardice

  4. to classify; categorize: we distinguished three species

Origin of distinguish

C16: from Latin distinguere to separate, discriminate

Derived forms of distinguish

  • distinguishable, adjective
  • distinguishably, adverb
  • distinguisher, noun
  • distinguishing, adjective
  • distinguishingly, adverb

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