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distinguish

[dih-sting-gwish] /dɪˈstɪŋ gwɪʃ/
verb (used with object)
1.
to mark off as different (often followed by from or by):
He was distinguished from the other boys by his height.
2.
to recognize as distinct or different; recognize the salient or individual features or characteristics of:
It is hard to distinguish her from her twin sister.
3.
to perceive clearly by sight or other sense; discern; recognize:
He could not distinguish many of the words.
4.
to set apart as different; be a distinctive characteristic of; characterize:
It is his Italian accent that distinguishes him.
5.
to make prominent, conspicuous, or eminent:
to distinguish oneself in battle.
6.
to divide into classes; classify:
Let us distinguish the various types of metaphor.
7.
Archaic. to single out for or honor with special attention.
verb (used without object)
8.
to indicate or show a difference (usually followed by between).
9.
to recognize or note differences; discriminate.
Origin
1555-1565
1555-65; extension, by -ish2, of Middle English disting(u)en (< Anglo-French, Middle French distinguer) < Latin distinguere; see distinct
Related forms
distinguishable, adjective
distinguishableness, distinguishability, noun
distinguishably, adverb
distinguisher, noun
distinguishment, noun
interdistinguish, verb (used with object)
nondistinguishable, adjective
nondistinguishableness, noun
nondistinguishably, adverb
predistinguish, verb (used with object)
redistinguish, verb
undistinguishable, adjective
Can be confused
distinctive, distinguishable, distinguished.
Synonyms
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
2. confuse.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for distinguish
  • Gray legs and thicker bill distinguish it from greater yellowlegs, another shorebird.
  • There are, he says, no modifiers that distinguish the tenses of verbs.
  • Mammals and birds can distinguish one from two, three, four or many.
  • Digital hearing aids help her distinguish some sounds.
  • They cannot distinguish between normative and positive statements.
  • The huge price differences are not the only things that distinguish salt from other commodities.
  • We need to distinguish plagiarism from academic dishonesty.
  • The campaigners claim that children are too naive to distinguish between ads and genuine programming.
  • It's important to distinguish between constructive criticism and mere insults.
  • It is designed to distinguish between your voice and outside ambient noise to provide a much higher quality sound.
British Dictionary definitions for distinguish

distinguish

/dɪˈstɪŋɡwɪʃ/
verb (mainly transitive)
1.
when intr, foll by between or among. to make, show, or recognize a difference or differences (between or among); differentiate (between)
2.
to be a distinctive feature of; characterize
3.
to make out; perceive
4.
to mark for a special honour or title
5.
to make (oneself) noteworthy: he distinguished himself by his cowardice
6.
to classify; categorize: we distinguished three species
Derived Forms
distinguishable, adjective
distinguishably, adverb
distinguisher, noun
distinguishing, adjective
distinguishingly, adverb
Word Origin
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
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Word Origin and History for distinguish
v.

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
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