v. dis·tin·guished, dis·tin·guish·ing, dis·tin·guish·es
a. To perceive as being different or distinct: Can you distinguish a pattern in this behavior?
b. To perceive distinctly; discern: The lookout distinguished the masts of ships on the horizon.
a. To demonstrate or describe as being different or distinct: a scientist who distinguished four species of the plant.
b. To be an identifying characteristic of; make noticeable or different: These spices distinguish this style of Asian cooking.
3. To cause (oneself) to be respected or eminent: They have distinguished themselves as dedicated social workers.
To perceive or indicate differences; discriminate: Can the child distinguish between right and wrong?
[Alteration of obsolete distingue, from Middle English distinguen, from Old French distinguer, from Latin distinguere, to separate; see steig- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.