tr.v. con·flat·ed, con·flat·ing, con·flates
1. To bring together; meld or fuse: "The problems [with the biopic] include ... dates moved around, lovers deleted, many characters conflated into one" (Ty Burr).
2. To combine (two variant texts, for example) into one whole.
3. To fail to distinguish between; confuse. See Usage Note below.
[Latin cōnflāre, cōnflāt- : com-, com- + flāre, to blow; see bhlē- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Usage Note: Traditionally, conflate means "To bring together; meld or fuse," as in the sentence I have trouble differentiating Jane Austen's heroines; I realized I had conflated Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse into a single character in my mind. In our 2015 survey, 87 percent of the Usage Panelists accepted this traditional usage. Recently, a new sense for conflate has emerged, meaning "To mistake one thing for another," as if it were a synonym for confuse. In 2015, our usage panelists found this new sense to be marginally acceptable, with 55 percent accepting the sentence People often conflate the national debt with the federal deficit; when the senator talked about reducing the debt, he was actually referring to the deficit.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.