verb (used with object)

verb (used without object)

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

Origin of distinguish

1555–65; extension, by -ish2, of Middle English disting(u)en (< Anglo-French, Middle French distinguer) < Latin distinguere; see distinct
Related formsdis·tin·guish·a·ble, adjectivedis·tin·guish·a·ble·ness, dis·tin·guish·a·bil·i·ty, noundis·tin·guish·a·bly, adverbdis·tin·guish·er, noundis·tin·guish·ment, nounin·ter·dis·tin·guish, verb (used with object)non·dis·tin·guish·a·ble, adjectivenon·dis·tin·guish·a·ble·ness, nounnon·dis·tin·guish·a·bly, adverbpre·dis·tin·guish, verb (used with object)re·dis·tin·guish, verbun·dis·tin·guish·a·ble, adjective

Synonym study

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.

Antonyms for distinguish

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

Examples from the Web for undistinguishable

Historical Examples of undistinguishable

British Dictionary definitions for undistinguishable


verb (mainly tr)

(when intr, foll by between or among) to make, show, or recognize a difference or differences (between or among); differentiate (between)
to be a distinctive feature of; characterize
to make out; perceive
to mark for a special honour or title
to make (oneself) noteworthyhe distinguished himself by his cowardice
to classify; categorizewe distinguished three species
Derived Formsdistinguishable, adjectivedistinguishably, adverbdistinguisher, noundistinguishing, adjectivedistinguishingly, adverb

Word Origin for distinguish

C16: from Latin distinguere to separate, discriminate
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 undistinguishable

1580s, from un- (1) "not" + distinguishable.



1560s, from Middle French distinguiss-, stem of distinguer, or directly from Latin distinguere "to separate between, separate by pricking," from dis- "apart" (see dis-) + -stinguere "to prick" (see extinguish, and cf. Latin instinguere "to incite, impel").

The suffix -ish is due to the influence of many verbs in which it is the equivalent of Old French -iss-, ultimately from Latin inchoative suffix -iscere (this is also the case in extinguish, admonish, and astonish). Related: Distinguishing. The earlier form of the verb was distinguen (mid-14c.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper