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[dih-sting-gwish] /dɪˈstɪŋ gwɪʃ/
verb (used with object)
to mark off as different (often followed by from or by):
He was distinguished from the other boys by his height.
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.
to perceive clearly by sight or other sense; discern; recognize:
He could not distinguish many of the words.
to set apart as different; be a distinctive characteristic of; characterize:
It is his Italian accent that distinguishes him.
to make prominent, conspicuous, or eminent:
to distinguish oneself in battle.
to divide into classes; classify:
Let us distinguish the various types of metaphor.
Archaic. to single out for or honor with special attention.
verb (used without object)
to indicate or show a difference (usually followed by between).
to recognize or note differences; discriminate.
Origin of distinguish
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.
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.
2. confuse. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for distinguishable
Historical Examples
  • Could we transport ourselves to a neighbouring world, the earth would seem a star, not distinguishable in kind from the rest.

    Are the Planets Inhabited? E. Walter Maunder
  • Among the Young Ones, Lake saw, was a distinguishable difference.

    Space Prison Tom Godwin
  • The truth is that the number of distinguishable living creatures almost surpasses imagination.

  • In other words, the two forms of language were not distinguishable.

  • This is distinguishable from the foregoing species by its smaller size, and in having the rump velvety black instead of crimson.

  • The whole moving cloud had lowered to a distinguishable distance.

    The Wind Before the Dawn Dell H. Munger
  • In the midst of this I could see nothing, and the buffaloes were not distinguishable until within thirty feet.

    The Life of Kit Carson Edward S. Ellis
  • This is distinguishable from the foregoing by its very short tail.

  • This is the value of nursing, the reason nursing exists as a distinguishable social and human service.

    Nursing as Caring Anne Boykin
  • Several islands were seen, but some so far-off as scarcely to be distinguishable.

    Great African Travellers W.H.G. Kingston
British Dictionary definitions for distinguishable


verb (mainly transitive)
when intr, foll by between or among. to make, show, or recognize a difference or differences (between or among); differentiate (between)
to be a distinctive feature of; characterize
to make out; perceive
to mark for a special honour or title
to make (oneself) noteworthy: he distinguished himself by his cowardice
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 distinguishable

1590s; see distinguish + -able. Related: Distinguishably.



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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