I have been using distinct in a verb form for many years, and I'm not sure how I picked it up. I use it in the form like this, "I distincted myself".

To my ears, it sounds right - distinct-ing, so to speak, is an action and should fall under normal rules for grammar, but all dictionary definitions seem to only have it in adjective form.

Is distinct ever used as a verb, or is this just a quirk of my individual language/possibly my region?

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    The verb is distinguish. – StoneyB Jun 12 '15 at 18:11
  • Well, it can be used as a sentence. "Why did you buy that fresh limburger?" "Distinct." – Greg Lee Jun 12 '15 at 19:40
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    @GregLee That would be a very strange reply. "Distinctiveness" would be much more natural: reasons tend to be nouns, not adjectives. – David Richerby Jun 13 '15 at 12:07
  • @DavidRicherby, it was just a bad pun. – Greg Lee Jun 13 '15 at 16:12
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    @DavidRicherby, "This stinked!" – Greg Lee Jun 13 '15 at 16:36

Distinguish should fit the bill here as a verb.

For example (from the above link):

1. to mark off as different (often followed by from or by):

He was distinguished from the other boys by his height.

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    Thanks, Ricky, and +1. Due to link-rot, it is suggested we cite sources, in plain text, somewhere in the body of the response. – user98990 Jun 12 '15 at 19:25

Technically yes, Distinct was a verb but even by Noah Webster's time in 1828 it had fallen into disuse. I would suggest using the words Discern, Distinguish or Discriminate instead.

Which word you use is mostly a matter of preference but Discern implies the use of sight and Discriminate has picked up some negative connotations regarding stubbornly elitist attitudes. Discriminate has the benefit of a noun form (discrimination) without the visionary implications of discernment. It also sounds closer to distinct than distinguish.

In more recent times Differentiate has also become acceptable, probably to replace discriminate since English speakers often dislike repetitive use of words.

Do not use Determine for this exact purpose. Its closest definitions mean to give form to something or to Ascertain (make certain) which is a somewhat different concept. Proper discrimination may determine the distinctness of one thing from another but determination can not distinguish between the two.

Noah Webster's American Dictionary of The English Language (1828) Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) [Cited just For differentiate.]

  • Nice answer, Tonepoet. Due to link-rot, it is suggested we cite sources, in plain text, somewhere in the body of the response. – user98990 Jun 12 '15 at 19:31
  • Thank you for the compliment and I added the citation as suggested. I think I did read something like that on the tour page or maybe an F.A.Q., although I had thought that the time that would require full definition quotes, which in retrospect is a silly notion. – Tonepoet Jun 12 '15 at 20:03
  • I'd suggest that "differentiate" has become more common not because of repetitiveness (what's being repeated?) but because of the negative connotations of "discriminate". – David Richerby Jun 13 '15 at 12:11
  • The hypothesis is that disfavor eliminated one word out of a relatively distinct and synonymous pair, so the other word would become overused until the first was replaced. In this case, the pair was distinguish/discriminate, so distinguish would have become the the repetitive word. As long as I'm here, I suppose it should be noted that discrimination is not inherently bad by definition and some uses still reflect this, including the idiomatic clause "exercise my better discrimination" (which might be since it sounds similar to another idiom "exercise my better discretion"). – Tonepoet Jun 13 '15 at 15:24
  • "Disambiguate" would be another good alternative in some situations. – bcrist Jun 13 '15 at 19:26

To my knowledge distinct should not be used as a verb. Perhaps "distinguish" is a better substitute.

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    While “distinguish” is certainly an apt response to this OP, a “good” answer (i.e., an answer which will garner positive votes) usually includes a personal component supported by citation (in plain text) to an established authority, definition of relevant terms employed and links to supporting information. – user98990 Jun 12 '15 at 18:28

I have not heard or seen distinct be used as a verb, but the quote below might be of interest to you: ‘there is no noun in English that can't be verbed’. (Tom McArthur)

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    But "distinct" is an adjective. – David Richerby Jun 13 '15 at 12:16

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