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From Latin discriminatus, past participle of discriminare (to divide, separate, distinguish), from discrimen (a space between, division, separation, distinction), from discerno (to divide, separate, distinguish, discern); see discern, discreet, discrete. Compare crime.



discriminate (third-person singular simple present discriminates, present participle discriminating, simple past and past participle discriminated)

  1. (intransitive) To make distinctions.
    Since he was colorblind he was unable to discriminate between the blue and green bottles.
  2. (intransitive, construed with against) To make decisions based on prejudice.
    The law prohibits discriminating against people based on their skin color.
  3. (transitive) To set apart as being different; to mark as different; to separate from another by discerning differences; to distinguish.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Cowper to this entry?)
    • Barrow
      To discriminate the goats from the sheep.

Usage notesEdit

Due to the strong pejorative connotations of sense of “decide based on prejudice”, care should be taken in using the term in the sense “distinguish, make distinctions”, and this sense is primarily used in formal discourse; synonyms are generally used instead.



  • (make decisions based on prejudice): favor

Derived termsEdit

Related termsEdit



discriminate (comparative more discriminate, superlative most discriminate)

  1. Having the difference marked; distinguished by certain tokens.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Francis Bacon to this entry?)

Further readingEdit