Definition of distinguish verb from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

      

    distinguish

     verb
    verb
    BrE BrE//dɪˈstɪŋɡwɪʃ//
     
    ; NAmE NAmE//dɪˈstɪŋɡwɪʃ//
     
    Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they distinguish
    BrE BrE//dɪˈstɪŋɡwɪʃ//
     
    ; NAmE NAmE//dɪˈstɪŋɡwɪʃ//
     
    he / she / it distinguishes
    BrE BrE//dɪˈstɪŋɡwɪʃɪz//
     
    ; NAmE NAmE//dɪˈstɪŋɡwɪʃɪz//
     
    past simple distinguished
    BrE BrE//dɪˈstɪŋɡwɪʃt//
     
    ; NAmE NAmE//dɪˈstɪŋɡwɪʃt//
     
    past participle distinguished
    BrE BrE//dɪˈstɪŋɡwɪʃt//
     
    ; NAmE NAmE//dɪˈstɪŋɡwɪʃt//
     
    -ing form distinguishing
    BrE BrE//dɪˈstɪŋɡwɪʃɪŋ//
     
    ; NAmE NAmE//dɪˈstɪŋɡwɪʃɪŋ//
     
     
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  1. 1  [intransitive, transitive] to recognize the difference between two people or things synonym differentiate distinguish between A and B At what age are children able to distinguish between right and wrong? English law clearly distinguishes between murder and manslaughter. distinguish A from B It was hard to distinguish one twin from the other. distinguish A and B Sometimes reality and fantasy are hard to distinguish. We can distinguish five meanings of the word ‘mad’.
  2. 2  [transitive] (not used in the progressive tenses) distinguish A (from B) to be a characteristic that makes two people, animals or things different What was it that distinguished her from her classmates? The male bird is distinguished from the female by its red beak. Does your cat have any distinguishing marks? The power of speech distinguishes human beings from animals.
  3. 3[transitive] (not used in the progressive tenses) distinguish something to be able to see or hear something synonym differentiate, make out I could not distinguish her words, but she sounded agitated. She could not distinguish the make and colour of the car in the fading light.
  4. 4[transitive] distinguish yourself (as something) to do something so well that people notice and admire you She has already distinguished herself as an athlete.
  5. Word Origin late 16th cent.: formed irregularly from French distinguer or Latin distinguere, from dis- ‘apart’ + stinguere ‘put out’ (from a base meaning ‘prick’).Extra examples It is often difficult to distinguish clearly between fact and fiction in this book. She could not distinguish one child from another. Small children have difficulty distinguishing fiction from reality. The adult bird can be readily distinguished by its orange bill. Troops cannot always reliably distinguish between combatants and civilians. Retailers should distinguish clearly between full-price and sale items.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: distinguish