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American Dictionary of the English Language

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Distinguish


DISTINGUISH, verb transitive [Latin Gr. The primary sense is, to prick, to pierce with a sharp point, to thrust in or on; and we retain the precise word in the verb, to stick, which see. The practice of making marks by puncturing, or sticking, gave rise to the applications of this word, as such marks were used to note and ascertain different things, to distinguish them. See distinguish ]

1. To ascertain and indicate difference by some external mark. The farmer distinguishes his sheep by marking their ears. The manufacturer distinguishes pieces of cloth by some mark or impression.

2. To separate one thing from another by some mark or quality; to know or ascertain difference.

First, by sight; as, to distinguish ones own children from others by their features.

Secondly, by feeling. A blind man distinguishes an egg from an orange, but rarely distinguishes colors.

Thirdly, by smell; as, it is easy to distinguish the small of a peach from that of an apple.

Fourthly, by taste; as, to distinguish a plum from a pear.

Fifthly, by hearing; as to distinguish the sound of a drum from that of a violin.

Sixthly, by the understanding; as, to distinguish vice form virtue, truth from falsehood.

3. To separate or divide by any mark or quality which constitutes difference. We distinguish sounds into high and low, soft and harsh, lively and grave. We distinguish causes into direct and indirect, immediate and mediate.

4. To discern critically; to judge.

Not more can you distinguish of a man, than of his outward show.

5. To separate from others by some mark of honor or preference. Homer and Virgil are distinguished as poets; Demosthenes and Cicero, as orators.

6. To make eminent or known.

DISTINGUISH, verb intransitive To make a distinction; to find or show the difference. It is the province of a judge to distinguish between cases apparently similar, but differing in principle.