Meaning of “distinguish” in the English Dictionary

"distinguish" in British English

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distinguishverb

uk /dɪˈstɪŋ.ɡwɪʃ/ us /dɪˈstɪŋ.ɡwɪʃ/

B2 [ I or T, not continuous ] to notice or understand the difference between two things, or to make one person or thing seem different from another:

He's colour-blind and can't distinguish (the difference) between red and green easily.
I sometimes have difficulty distinguishing Spanish from Portuguese.
It's important to distinguish between business and pleasure.
It's not the beauty so much as the range of his voice that distinguishes him from other tenors.
distinguish yourself

to do something so well that you are admired and praised for it:

He distinguished himself as a writer at a very early age.

More examples

  • They look so similar it's often difficult to distinguish one from the other.
  • The male bird displays several characteristics which distinguish him from the female.
  • It's his eye for detail that distinguishes him as a painter.
  • It can be difficult to distinguish between poisonous and edible mushrooms.
  • Teachers have to learn to distinguish between behaviour problems associated with learning difficulties and behaviour problems linked to something else.
distinguishable
adjective uk /dɪˈstɪŋ.ɡwɪ.ʃə.bəl/ us /dɪˈstɪŋ.ɡwɪ.ʃə.bəl/

There are at least 20 distinguishable dialects of the language just on the south island.

(Definition of “distinguish” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"distinguish" in American English

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distinguishverb [ I/T ]

us /dɪˈstɪŋ·ɡwɪʃ/

distinguish verb [ I/T ] (SEPARATE)

to recognize or understand the difference between two things, or to provide a quality that makes someone or something different or special:

[ I always + adv/prep ] It’s important to distinguish between scientific fact and fiction.
[ T ] Samuel F. B. Morse distinguished himself both as an inventor and as a painter.

distinguish verb [ I/T ] (SEE/HEAR)

to see, hear, or experience something, esp. with difficulty:

In the dark, I could barely distinguish the shape of a person.

(Definition of “distinguish” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)