Is there a verb for discerning the boundaries of distinct entities that are constituents of a seemingly amorphous whole? "Gaining resolution" is the closest phrase I can think of, but that's a metaphor where I want to be explicit.

Example of sentence structure in use case:

  1. Zooming in on the image ____ its contents.
  2. The professor demystified (???) Newtonian physics.
  3. Putting on his glasses will discriminate (???) Bob's vision of the forest.

I want to express the idea that a seemingly amorphous entity has had its contents revealed sophisticated and articulate.

The two verbs I know of that could be potential candidates, "discern" and "discriminate", feel awkward. They're usually used in the structure of "discriminate between X and Y" or "discern between X and Y".

To say that "putting on glasses discriminated his vision" feels wrong, and I'm not sure anyone will even understand me if I use that strange wording.

Could there be a better word? Or should I stick with "discriminate"?

  • It's probably a duplicate, but you can think about 'define'. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 7 '18 at 0:37
  • I don't see why you shy away from 'resolve' (in the sense of 'bring into focus'). It isn't a metaphor in the context of perceiving something, even if the something is abstract rather than concrete. – Nigel J Jun 7 '18 at 3:16


transitive verb

1 : to make understandable · clarify a subject · The president was forced to clarify his position on the issue.

2 : to free of confusion · needs time to clarify his thoughts

intransitive verb

to become clear · waiting for the present muddled diplomatic situation to clarify

For your sentences:

  1. Zooming in on the image clarifies its contents.
  2. The professor clarified Newtonian physics.
  3. Putting on his glasses will clarify Bob's vision of the forest.

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