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 ©2017 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.
American Heritage Dictionary Products
The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th Edition
The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms
The American Heritage Roget's Thesaurus
Curious George's Dictionary
The American Heritage Children's Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots
The American Heritage Student Grammar Dictionary
The American Heritage Desk Dictionary + Thesaurus
The American Heritage Science Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Business Terms
The American Heritage Student Dictionary
The American Heritage Essential Student Thesaurus