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[dih-strakt] /dɪˈstrækt/
verb (used with object)
to draw away or divert, as the mind or attention:
The music distracted him from his work.
to disturb or trouble greatly in mind; beset:
Grief distracted him.
to provide a pleasant diversion for; amuse; entertain:
I'm bored with bridge, but golf still distracts me.
to separate or divide by dissension or strife.
Obsolete. distracted.
Origin of distract
1350-1400; Middle English < Latin distractus (past participle of distrahere to draw apart), equivalent to dis- dis-1 + trac- (variant stem of trahere to draw) + -tus past participle suffix
Related forms
distractible, adjective
distractingly, adverb
nondistracting, adjective
nondistractingly, adverb
undistracting, adjective
undistractingly, adverb
2. bewilder, agitate, pain, torment, distress. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for distract
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Meanwhile, Porter, could you give him something to eat to distract him?

    Excuse Me! Rupert Hughes
  • He hoped to distract her from such grief over her predicament.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • And after that Mr. Direck became too anxious not to distract his host's thoughts to persist with his conversational openings.

  • Recently so many things had arisen to distract her attention.

    Her Father's Daughter Gene Stratton-Porter
  • Dr. (rises) It is a drawback to interpolations that they interrupt the argument and distract the attention.

    The Silver Shield Sydney Grundy
British Dictionary definitions for distract


verb (transitive)
(often passive) to draw the attention of (a person) away from something
to divide or confuse the attention of (a person)
to amuse or entertain
to trouble greatly
to make mad
Derived Forms
distracter, noun
distractible, adjective
distractibility, noun
distracting, adjective
distractingly, adverb
distractive, adjective
distractively, adverb
Word Origin
C14: from Latin distractus perplexed, from distrahere to pull in different directions, from dis-1 + trahere to drag
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 distract

mid-14c., "to draw asunder or apart, to turn aside" (literal and figurative), from Latin distractus, past participle of distrahere "draw in different directions," from dis- "away" (see dis-) + trahere "to draw" (see tract (n.1)).

Sense of "to throw into a state of mind in which one knows not how to act" is from 1580s. Related: Distracted; distracting; distractedly; distractedness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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