an error in action, calculation, opinion, or judgment caused by poor reasoning, carelessness, insufficient knowledge, etc.
a misunderstanding or misconception.

verb (used with object), mis·took, mis·tak·en, mis·tak·ing.

to regard or identify wrongly as something or someone else: I mistook him for the mayor.
to understand, interpret, or evaluate wrongly; misunderstand; misinterpret.

verb (used without object), mis·took, mis·tak·en, mis·tak·ing.

to be in error.


    and no mistake, for certain; surely: He's an honorable person, and no mistake.

Origin of mistake

1300–30; Middle English mistaken (v.) < Old Norse mistaka to take in error. See mis-1, take
Related formsmis·tak·er, nounmis·tak·ing·ly, adverbun·mis·tak·ing, adjectiveun·mis·tak·ing·ly, adverb
Can be confusedmisnomer mistake (see confusables note at misnomer)

Synonyms for mistake

1. inaccuracy, erratum, fault, oversight. Mistake, blunder, error, slip refer to deviations from right, accuracy, correctness, or truth. A mistake, grave or trivial, is caused by bad judgment or a disregard of rule or principle: It was a mistake to argue. A blunder is a careless, stupid, or gross mistake in action or speech, suggesting awkwardness, heedlessness, or ignorance: Through his blunder the message was lost. An error (often interchanged with mistake ) is an unintentional wandering or deviation from accuracy, or right conduct: an error in addition. A slip is usually a minor mistake made through haste or carelessness: a slip of the tongue. 4. misconceive, misjudge, err.

Antonyms for mistake

Confusables note

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

Examples from the Web for mistake

Contemporary Examples of mistake

Historical Examples of mistake

  • Without reasons I was sure of, you know, so there could be no chance of any mistake.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • "Nothing, only you locked the door by mistake," said Ben, coolly.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • He'll be the corn king all right by June 1st; don't make any mistake on that.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • "If you will consult the captain, you may learn your mistake," said Robert.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • Yet they not only use this medium, but mistake it for the whitest sunshine.

British Dictionary definitions for mistake



an error or blunder in action, opinion, or judgment
a misconception or misunderstanding

verb -takes, -taking, -took or -taken

(tr) to misunderstand; misinterpretshe mistook his meaning
(tr foll by for) to take (for), interpret (as), or confuse (with)she mistook his direct manner for honesty
(tr) to choose badly or incorrectlyhe mistook his path
(intr) to make a mistake in action, opinion, judgment, etc
Derived Formsmistaker, noun

Word Origin for mistake

C13 (meaning: to do wrong, err): from Old Norse mistaka to take erroneously
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 mistake

early 14c., "to commit an offense;" late 14c., "to misunderstand, misinterpret," from a Scandinavian source (cf. Old Norse mistaka "take in error, miscarry"), from mis- "wrongly" (see mis- (1)) + taka "take" (see take (v.)). Related: Mistook; mistaking.


1630s, from mistake (v.). Meaning "unintended pregnancy" is from 1957.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with mistake


In addition to the idiom beginning with mistake

  • mistake for

also see:

  • by mistake
  • make no mistake
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.