English edit

Etymology edit

From Middle English distingwen, from Old French distinguer, from Latin distinguere (to separate, divide, distinguish, set off, adorn, literally mark off), from di-, dis- (apart) + stinguere, related to English stink. Compare extinguish.

Pronunciation edit

  • enPR: dĭ-stĭngʹgwĭsh, IPA(key): /dɪˈstɪŋ.ɡwɪʃ/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪŋɡwɪʃ
  • Hyphenation: dis‧tin‧guish

Verb edit

distinguish (third-person singular simple present distinguishes, present participle distinguishing, simple past and past participle distinguished)

  1. To recognize someone or something as different from others based on its characteristics.
    Synonyms: differentiate, discriminate; see also Thesaurus:tell apart
    Antonym: confuse
    • 1922, De Lacy O'Leary, Arabic Thought and Its Place in History:
      It had begun to take a leading place even in the days of the Ptolemies, and in scientific, as distinguished from purely literary work, it had assumed a position of primary importance early in the Christian era.
    • 2012 March-April, Jeremy Bernstein, “A Palette of Particles”, in American Scientist[1], volume 100, number 2, page 146:
      The physics of elementary particles in the 20th century was distinguished by the observation of particles whose existence had been predicted by theorists sometimes decades earlier.
  2. To see someone or something clearly or distinctly.
    Synonyms: discern, make out
  3. To make oneself noticeably different or better from others through accomplishments.
    The soldier distinguished himself in combat and received a medal.
    • 1784: William Jones, The Description and Use of a New Portable Orrery, &c., PREFACE
      THE favourable reception the Orrery has met with from Perſons of the firſt diſtinction, and from Gentlemen and Ladies in general, has induced me to add to it ſeveral new improvements in order to give it a degree of Perfection; and diſtinguiſh it from others; which by Piracy, or Imitation, may be introduced to the Public.
  4. To confer an honor upon.
    The soldier was distinguished with a medal for his bravery.
  5. (transitive, obsolete) To make to differ.

Usage notes edit

In sense “see a difference”, more casual than differentiate or the formal discriminate; more casual is “tell the difference”.

Derived terms edit

Related terms edit

Translations edit

Further reading edit