What does distinguish mean?

Definitions for distinguish
dɪˈstɪŋ gwɪʃdis·tin·guish

This dictionary definitions page includes all the possible meanings, example usage and translations of the word distinguish.

Princeton's WordNet

  1. distinguish, separate, differentiate, secern, secernate, severalize, severalise, tell, tell apartverb

    mark as different

    "We distinguish several kinds of maple"

  2. spot, recognize, recognise, distinguish, discern, pick out, make out, tell apartverb

    detect with the senses

    "The fleeing convicts were picked out of the darkness by the watchful prison guards"; "I can't make out the faces in this photograph"

  3. distinguish, mark, differentiateverb

    be a distinctive feature, attribute, or trait; sometimes in a very positive sense

    "His modesty distinguishes him from his peers"

  4. signalize, signalise, distinguishverb

    make conspicuous or noteworthy

  5. identify, discover, key, key out, distinguish, describe, nameverb

    identify as in botany or biology, for example


  1. distinguishverb

    To see someone or something as different from others.

  2. distinguishverb

    To see someone or something clearly or distinctly.

  3. distinguishverb

    To make one's self noticeably different or better from others through accomplishments.

  4. Etymology: From distingwen, from distinguer, from distinguere, from di- for dis- + *; see sting, stigma, style. Compare extinguish.

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary


    Etymology: distinguo, Latin.

    Rightly to distinguish, is, by conceit of the mind, to sever things different in nature, and to discern wherein they differ. Richard Hooker, b. iii. s. 3.

    They distinguish my poems from those of other men, and have made me their peculiar care. John Dryden, Fables, Dedicat.

    Let us revolve that roll with strictest eye,
    Where, safe from time, distinguish’d actions lie. Matthew Prior.

    Moses distinguishes the causes of the flood into those that belong to the heavens, and those that belong to the earth, the rains, and the abyss. Thomas Burnet, Theory of the Earth.

    So long
    As he could make me, with this eye or ear,
    Distinguish him from others, he did keep
    The deck. William Shakespeare, Cymbeline.

    We have not yet been seen in any house,
    Nor can we be distinguish’d by our faces,
    For man or master. William Shakespeare, Taming of the Shrew.

    By our reason we are enabled to distinguish good from evil, as well as truth from falshood. Isaac Watts, Logick.

    Sweet, the untainted virtue of your years
    Hath not yet div’d into the world’s deceit;
    Nor more can you distinguish of a man,
    Than of his outward shew! William Shakespeare, Richard III.

    St. Paul’s Epistles contain nothing but points of christian instruction, amongst which he seldom fails to enlarge on the great and distinguishing doctrines of our holy religion. John Locke.

  2. To Distinguishverb

    To make distinction; to find or shew the difference.

    He would warily distinguish between the profit of the merchant and the gain of the kingdom. Josiah Child, Disc. on Trade.

    The readers must learn by all means to distinguish between proverbs and those polite speeches which beautify conversation. Jonathan Swift.


  1. distinguish

    In law, to distinguish a case means a court decides the holding or legal reasoning of a precedent case will not apply due to materially different facts between the two cases. Two formal constraints constrain the later court: the expressed relevant factors (also known as considerations, tests, questions or determinants) in the ratio (legal reasoning) of the earlier case must be recited or their equivalent recited or the earlier case makes an exception for their application in the circumstances otherwise it envisages, and the ruling in the later case must not expressly doubt (criticise) the result reached in the precedent case.The ruling made by the judge or panel of judges must be based on the evidence at hand and the standard binding authorities covering the subject-matter and areas of law cited in or plainly relevant to the dispute (they must be followed). This means that a precedent will be dealt to (in English and Scottish law known instead as applied to) a case with similar facts, in which a decision can then be distinguished based upon this, or it may be cited with approval but found to be inapplicable on bases reconcilable with the earlier decision's reasoning.


  1. distinguish

    To distinguish refers to recognizing or identifying a difference or distinguishing characteristic between two or more things, people, or concepts. It can also mean perceiving or pointing out a unique quality or feature that sets something or someone apart from others. Additionally, it may refer to making oneself or something noticeable or prominent through unique or exceptional characteristics.

Webster Dictionary

  1. Distinguishverb

    not set apart from others by visible marks; to make distinctive or discernible by exhibiting differences; to mark off by some characteristic

  2. Distinguishverb

    to separate by definition of terms or logical division of a subject with regard to difference; as, to distinguish sounds into high and low

  3. Distinguishverb

    to recognize or discern by marks, signs, or characteristic quality or qualities; to know and discriminate (anything) from other things with which it might be confounded; as, to distinguish the sound of a drum

  4. Distinguishverb

    to constitute a difference; to make to differ

  5. Distinguishverb

    to separate from others by a mark of honor; to make eminent or known; to confer distinction upon; -- with by or for

  6. Distinguishverb

    to make distinctions; to perceive the difference; to exercise discrimination; -- with between; as, a judge distinguishes between cases apparently similar, but differing in principle

  7. Distinguishverb

    to become distinguished or distinctive; to make one's self or itself discernible

Chambers 20th Century Dictionary

  1. Distinguish

    dis-ting′gwish, v.t. to mark off, set apart (often with from): to recognise by characteristic qualities: to discern critically: to separate by a mark of honour: to make eminent or known.—v.i. to make or show distinctions or differences, to recognise the difference (with from, between).—adj. Disting′uishable, that may be capable of being distinguished.—adv. Disting′uishably.—p.adj. Disting′uished, illustrious.—n. Disting′uisher.—p.adj. Disting′uishing, peculiar.—n. Disting′uishment (Shak.), distinction. [Through Fr. from L. distinguĕre, distinctumdis, asunder, stinguĕre, to prick, conn. with Gr. stizein, to mark. See Sting.]

Matched Categories

British National Corpus

  1. Spoken Corpus Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'distinguish' in Spoken Corpus Frequency: #4481

  2. Verbs Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'distinguish' in Verbs Frequency: #485

How to pronounce distinguish?

How to say distinguish in sign language?


  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of distinguish in Chaldean Numerology is: 9

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of distinguish in Pythagorean Numerology is: 4

Examples of distinguish in a Sentence

  1. Andrew Siemion:

    The advantage is that it's very easy to distinguish, lots of the galaxies produces radio waves. If we see lots of energy in an area, it's an unmistakable marker of technology.

  2. Vipin Narang:

    China may fill these out eventually but in the interim, when they are not all filled out, would The US be able to distinguish with certainty which silos are filled and which aren't and would we have to commit to destroying all of these no matter what ? If that is the case then The US has to commit maybe twice the number of warheads to all of the silos, if you are the US this forces you to re-think nuclear planning.

  3. Oded Rechavi:

    Since we can distinguish scrolls that originated from Qumran from other scrolls, we think that maybe in the future it could help identify real versus false scroll pieces.

  4. Merlin Sheldrake:

    The human sense of smell is extraordinary. Our eyes can distinguish several million colours, our ears can distinguish half a million tones, but our noses can distinguish well over a trillion different odours. Humans can detect virtually all volatile chemicals ever tested.

  5. Northrop Frye:

    A reader who quarrels with postulates, who dislikes Hamlet because he does not believe that there are ghosts or that people speak in pentameters, clearly has no business in literature. He cannot distinguish fiction from fact, and belongs in the same category as the people who send checks to radio stations for the relief of suffering heroines in soap operas.

Popularity rank by frequency of use


Translations for distinguish

From our Multilingual Translation Dictionary

Get even more translations for distinguish »


Find a translation for the distinguish definition in other languages:

Select another language:

  • - Select -
  • 简体中文 (Chinese - Simplified)
  • 繁體中文 (Chinese - Traditional)
  • Español (Spanish)
  • Esperanto (Esperanto)
  • 日本語 (Japanese)
  • Português (Portuguese)
  • Deutsch (German)
  • العربية (Arabic)
  • Français (French)
  • Русский (Russian)
  • ಕನ್ನಡ (Kannada)
  • 한국어 (Korean)
  • עברית (Hebrew)
  • Gaeilge (Irish)
  • Українська (Ukrainian)
  • اردو (Urdu)
  • Magyar (Hungarian)
  • मानक हिन्दी (Hindi)
  • Indonesia (Indonesian)
  • Italiano (Italian)
  • தமிழ் (Tamil)
  • Türkçe (Turkish)
  • తెలుగు (Telugu)
  • ภาษาไทย (Thai)
  • Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)
  • Čeština (Czech)
  • Polski (Polish)
  • Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian)
  • Românește (Romanian)
  • Nederlands (Dutch)
  • Ελληνικά (Greek)
  • Latinum (Latin)
  • Svenska (Swedish)
  • Dansk (Danish)
  • Suomi (Finnish)
  • فارسی (Persian)
  • ייִדיש (Yiddish)
  • հայերեն (Armenian)
  • Norsk (Norwegian)
  • English (English)

Word of the Day

Would you like us to send you a FREE new word definition delivered to your inbox daily?

Please enter your email address:


Use the citation below to add this definition to your bibliography:


"distinguish." Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 2 Mar. 2024. <https://www.definitions.net/definition/distinguish>.

Discuss these distinguish definitions with the community:


    Are we missing a good definition for distinguish? Don't keep it to yourself...

    Free, no signup required:

    Add to Chrome

    Get instant definitions for any word that hits you anywhere on the web!

    Free, no signup required:

    Add to Firefox

    Get instant definitions for any word that hits you anywhere on the web!

    Browse Definitions.net


    Are you a words master?

    dark and gloomy
    • A. tenebrous
    • B. numinous
    • C. lank
    • D. flabby

    Nearby & related entries:

    Alternative searches for distinguish: