Definition for DIS-TIN'GUISH

DIS-TIN'GUISH, v.t. [L. distinguo; dis and stingo, or stinguo, n not radical. This seems to Gr. ςιζω, ςιξω, for the second future is ςιγω and the derivatives prove the primary elements to be stg, as in ςιγευς, ςιγμα, ςικτος. Hence also L. stigo, whence instigo, to instigate. 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 Extinguish, and Class Dg, No. 31.]

  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 one's 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 smell 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 from 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. Nor more can you distinguish of a man, / Than of his outward show. – Shak.
  5. To separate from others by some mark of honor or presence. Homer and Virgil are distinguished as poets; Demosthenes and Cicero, as orators.
  6. To make eminent or known. – Johnson.

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