verb (used with object)

to draw away or divert, as the mind or attention: The music distracted him from his work.
to disturb or trouble greatly in mind; beset: Grief distracted him.
to provide a pleasant diversion for; amuse; entertain: I'm bored with bridge, but golf still distracts me.
to separate or divide by dissension or strife.


Obsolete. distracted.

Origin of distract

1350–1400; Middle English < Latin distractus (past participle of distrahere to draw apart), equivalent to dis- dis-1 + trac- (variant stem of trahere to draw) + -tus past participle suffix
Related formsdis·tract·i·ble, adjectivedis·tract·ing·ly, adverbnon·dis·tract·ing, adjectivenon·dis·tract·ing·ly, adverbun·dis·tract·ing, adjectiveun·dis·tract·ing·ly, adverb

Synonyms for distract

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for distract

Contemporary Examples of distract

Historical Examples of distract

  • He hoped to distract her from such grief over her predicament.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • Recently so many things had arisen to distract her attention.

    Her Father's Daughter

    Gene Stratton-Porter

  • And then Steve Yerden is enough to distract a leather-man, any way.

    Samantha Among the Brethren, Part 2.

    Josiah Allen's Wife (Marietta Holley)

  • I do not want to distract his mind from his lessons, and I wish to be quite sure first.

    Great Uncle Hoot-Toot

    Mrs. Molesworth

  • With an effort, recovering, she sought to distract the girl.


    Louis Joseph Vance

British Dictionary definitions for distract


verb (tr)

(often passive) to draw the attention of (a person) away from something
to divide or confuse the attention of (a person)
to amuse or entertain
to trouble greatly
to make mad
Derived Formsdistracter, noundistractible, adjectivedistractibility, noundistracting, adjectivedistractingly, adverbdistractive, adjectivedistractively, adverb

Word Origin for distract

C14: from Latin distractus perplexed, from distrahere to pull in different directions, from dis- 1 + trahere to drag
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

Word Origin and History for distract

mid-14c., "to draw asunder or apart, to turn aside" (literal and figurative), from Latin distractus, past participle of distrahere "draw in different directions," from dis- "away" (see dis-) + trahere "to draw" (see tract (n.1)).

Sense of "to throw into a state of mind in which one knows not how to act" is from 1580s. Related: Distracted; distracting; distractedly; distractedness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper