Ask Difference

Distinguish vs. Make Out — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Published on December 4, 2023
"Distinguish" means to recognize or point out differences. "Make out" means to discern, often with difficulty. Both relate to perception, but "distinguish" emphasizes differentiation, while "make out" stresses clarity.
Distinguish vs. Make Out — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Distinguish and Make Out

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Key Differences

"Distinguish" primarily refers to the act of recognizing, identifying, or differentiating one thing from another. When one distinguishes between two objects, they're essentially noting the differences or unique characteristics each one possesses. On the other hand, "make out" leans more towards the act of discerning or perceiving something, often amidst challenges like poor lighting or distance. One might make out the details of a distant figure, trying to understand its form.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 04, 2023
In another sense, "distinguish" also refers to standing out or being notable in some capacity. For instance, a person can distinguish themselves in a particular field, marking them as exceptional or notable. "Make out", however, can mean to understand or interpret, as when one tries to make out someone's intentions or meaning behind their words.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 04, 2023
Furthermore, "distinguish" often carries a formal or academic tone, especially when used in contexts where clear differentiation is crucial. For example, in scientific studies, one might need to distinguish between two species or phenomena. "Make out", in contrast, is more colloquial and is commonly used in everyday conversation when one is attempting to see, hear, or understand something with some level of difficulty.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 04, 2023
Lastly, both "distinguish" and "make out" deal with perception and understanding. However, while "distinguish" focuses on the differentiation aspect, "make out" emphasizes the challenge in clarity or comprehension. A person distinguishes by identifying differences, while they make out by deciphering amidst challenges.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 04, 2023

Comparison Chart

Primary Meaning

Recognize or note differences.
Discern with difficulty.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 04, 2023
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Tone

Often formal or academic.
More colloquial.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 04, 2023

Secondary Meaning

Stand out or be notable.
Understand or interpret.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 04, 2023

Usage

Differentiation and recognition.
Perception amidst challenges.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 04, 2023

Example

Distinguish between right and wrong.
Struggle to make out details in the dim light.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 04, 2023

Compare with Definitions

Distinguish

Recognize or treat as different.
It's hard to distinguish the two twins.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 17, 2023

Make Out

Understand or infer the nature or meaning.
What are you trying to make out with that comment?
Fiza Rafique
Oct 17, 2023

Distinguish

Perceive or point out a difference.
She can distinguish between five different bird calls.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 17, 2023

Make Out

Engage in amorous behavior, like kissing.
They were making out in the car.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 17, 2023

Distinguish

Differentiate with clear characteristics.
Colors distinguish different teams.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 17, 2023

Make Out

Perceive or recognize, especially with difficulty.
I couldn't make out the sign in the fog.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 17, 2023

Distinguish

Make oneself prominent or noteworthy.
He distinguished himself in the field of science.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 17, 2023

Make Out

Draft or write.
She made out a check for the rent.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 17, 2023

Distinguish

Understand or perceive clearly.
She could easily distinguish the truth from his words.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 17, 2023

Make Out

Fair or manage in a situation.
How did you make out at the doctor's appointment?
Fiza Rafique
Oct 17, 2023

Distinguish

To perceive as being different or distinct
Can you distinguish a pattern in this behavior?.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 12, 2023

Distinguish

To perceive distinctly; discern
The lookout distinguished the masts of ships on the horizon.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 12, 2023

Distinguish

To demonstrate or describe as being different or distinct
A scientist who distinguished four species of the plant.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 12, 2023

Distinguish

To be an identifying characteristic of; make noticeable or different
These spices distinguish this style of Asian cooking.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 12, 2023

Distinguish

To cause (oneself) to be respected or eminent
They have distinguished themselves as dedicated social workers.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 12, 2023

Distinguish

To perceive or indicate differences; discriminate
Can the child distinguish between right and wrong?.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 12, 2023

Distinguish

To recognize someone or something as different from others based on its characteristics.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 12, 2023

Distinguish

To see someone or something clearly or distinctly.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 12, 2023

Distinguish

To make oneself noticeably different or better from others through accomplishments.
The soldier distinguished himself in combat and received a medal.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 12, 2023

Distinguish

To make to differ.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 12, 2023

Distinguish

Not set apart from others by visible marks; to make distinctive or discernible by exhibiting differences; to mark off by some characteristic.
Not more distinguished by her purple vest,Than by the charming features of her face.
Milton has distinguished the sweetbrier and the eglantine.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 12, 2023

Distinguish

To separate by definition of terms or logical division of a subject with regard to difference; as, to distinguish sounds into high and low.
Moses distinguished the causes of the flood into those that belong to the heavens, and those that belong to the earth.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 12, 2023

Distinguish

To recognize or discern by marks, signs, or characteristic quality or qualities; to know and discriminate (anything) from other things with which it might be confounded; as, to distinguish the sound of a drum.
We are enabled to distinguish good from evil, as well as truth from falsehood.
Nor more can you distinguish of a man,Than of his outward show.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 12, 2023

Distinguish

To constitute a difference; to make to differ.
Who distinguisheth thee?
Fiza Rafique
Oct 12, 2023

Distinguish

To separate from others by a mark of honor; to make eminent or known; to confer distinction upon; - with by or for.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 12, 2023

Distinguish

To make distinctions; to perceive the difference; to exercise discrimination; - with between; as, a judge distinguishes between cases apparently similar, but differing in principle.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 12, 2023

Distinguish

To become distinguished or distinctive; to make one's self or itself discernible.
The little embryo . . . first distinguishes into a little knot.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 12, 2023

Distinguish

Mark as different;
We distinguish several kinds of maple
Fiza Rafique
Oct 12, 2023

Distinguish

Detect with the senses;
The fleeing convicts were picked out of the darkness by the watchful prison guards
I can't make out the faces in this photograph
Fiza Rafique
Oct 12, 2023

Distinguish

Be a distinctive feature, attribute, or trait; sometimes in a very positive sense;
His modesty distinguishes him form his peers
Fiza Rafique
Oct 12, 2023

Distinguish

Make conspicuous or noteworthy
Fiza Rafique
Oct 12, 2023

Distinguish

Identify as in botany or biology, for example
Fiza Rafique
Oct 12, 2023

Common Curiosities

Can "distinguish" relate to personal achievement?

Yes, one can distinguish themselves by standing out in a field.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 04, 2023

How does "make out" relate to perception?

"Make out" relates to perceiving or recognizing, often amidst challenges.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 04, 2023

Does "make out" always indicate difficulty in perception?

Often, but not always. "Make out" can also mean to understand or interpret.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 04, 2023

What's the main action associated with "distinguish"?

"Distinguish" mainly means to recognize or note differences.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 04, 2023

Is "distinguish" more formal than "make out"?

Generally, yes. "Distinguish" often carries a formal or academic tone.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 04, 2023

Can "make out" refer to romantic actions?

Yes, it can mean to engage in amorous behaviors like kissing.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 04, 2023

In what context might someone "make out" a form or shape?

If trying to see something in low light, one might "make out" a silhouette.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 04, 2023

How might "make out" be used to discuss understanding?

"I can't make out his intentions from his message."
Fiza Rafique
Dec 04, 2023

How does "make out" relate to writing?

It can mean to draft or compose, like "making out a check."
Fiza Rafique
Dec 04, 2023

How does one use "distinguish" in the context of differentiation?

For example: "It's difficult to distinguish between the two paintings."
Fiza Rafique
Dec 04, 2023

Do "distinguish" and "make out" have similar meanings?

They both relate to perception, but emphasize different aspects.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 04, 2023

Can "distinguish" be used in academic or scientific contexts?

Yes, for example: "Researchers distinguish between two species."
Fiza Rafique
Dec 04, 2023

Is "distinguish" always about visual differences?

No, it can also relate to auditory, tactile, or conceptual differences.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 04, 2023

Can "make out" refer to success or progress?

Yes, like "How did you make out in your exam?"
Fiza Rafique
Dec 04, 2023

Which word highlights differentiation more prominently?

"Distinguish" is more focused on differentiation.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 04, 2023

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at AskDifference.com, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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