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.


  • (verb) IPA(key): /dɪsˈkɹɪmɪneɪt/
    • (file)
  • (adjective) IPA(key): /dɪsˈkɹɪmɪnət/
  • (file)


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

  1. (intransitive) To make distinctions.
    Since he was color blind he was unable to discriminate between the blue and green bottles.
  2. To treat or affect differently, depending on differences in traits.
    Low self-esteem doesn't discriminate against anyone.
    1. (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.
    • 1670-7, Isaac Barrow, “Sermon XX: Against rash Censuring and Judging”, in The Theological Works, volume 1, published 1818, page 448:
      To discriminate the goats from the sheep.
    • 1782–1785, William Cowper, “(please specify the page)”, in The Task, a Poem, [], London: [] J[oseph] Johnson; [], OCLC 228757725:
      Still stranger much, that when at length mankind
      Had reach'd the sinewy firmness of their youth,
      And could discriminate and argue well
      On subjects more mysterious

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. On the other hand, the adjectives discriminate and indiscriminate are solely used to refer to being distinguished or marked by being different.



  • (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.
    • 1631, Francis [Bacon], “9. Century.”, in Sylua Syluarum: Or A Naturall Historie. In Ten Centuries. [], 3rd edition, London: [] William Rawley; [p]rinted by J[ohn] H[aviland] for William Lee [], OCLC 1044372886:
      Nevertheless it is certain, that oisters, and cockles, and mussels, which move not, have no discriminate sex


Further readingEdit


Etymology 1Edit



  1. inflection of discriminare:
    1. second-person plural present indicative
    2. second-person plural imperative

Etymology 2Edit


discriminate f pl

  1. feminine plural of discriminato





  1. second-person plural present active imperative of discrīminō