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verb distinguish pronunciation in British English /dɪˈstɪŋɡwɪʃ/
Word Forms
present tense
present participledistinguishing
past tensedistinguished
past participledistinguished
  1. 1
    [intransitive/transitive] to recognize the differences between things

    He learned to distinguish the songs of different birds.

    distinguish between:

    They concluded that even three-year-olds are able to distinguish between causes and effects.

    distinguish something from something:

    It’s very difficult to distinguish satire from other types of comedy.

  2. 2
    [transitive] to be a feature that makes someone or something clearly different from other similar people or things
    distinguish someone/something from someone/something:

    There is very little to distinguish it from the hundreds of other websites devoted to this subject.

  3. 3
    [transitive] formal to be able to hear, see, smell, or taste something clearly

    I could not distinguish her face in the darkness.


… a teaching method in which groups of children learn independently using a computer linked to the internet

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a derogatory word used for referring to people in the banking and investment industry who are thought of as taking serious risks in order to increase their own earnings …

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