From Latin discriminatus, past participle of discriminare (“to divide, separate, distinguish”), from discrimen (“a space between, division, separation, distinction”), from discerno (“to divide, separate, distinguish, discern”); see discern, discreet, discrete. Compare crime.
- (intransitive) To make distinctions.
- Since he was color blind he was unable to discriminate between the blue and green bottles.
- (intransitive, construed with against) To make decisions based on prejudice.
- The law prohibits discriminating against people based on their skin color.
- (transitive) To set apart as being different; to mark as different; to separate from another by discerning differences; to distinguish.
- (Can we find and add a quotation of Cowper to this entry?)
- 1670-7, Isaac Barrow, “Sermon XX: Against rash Censuring and Judging”, in The Theological Works, volume 1, published 1818, page 448:
- To discriminate the goats from the sheep.
Due to the strong pejorative connotations of sense of “decide based on prejudice”, care should be taken in using the term in the sense “distinguish, make distinctions”, and this sense is primarily used in formal discourse; synonyms are generally used instead.
- (make distinctions): distinguish, differentiate; see also Thesaurus:tell apart
- (make decisions based on prejudice): disfavor
- (make decisions based on prejudice): favor
- Having the difference marked; distinguished by certain tokens.
- 1631, [Francis Bacon], “9. Century.”, in Sylua Syluarum: Or A Naturall Historie. In Ten Centuries. […], 3rd edition, London: […] VVilliam Rawley; [p]rinted by J[ohn] H[aviland] for William Lee […], OCLC 1044372886:
- Nevertheless it is certain, that oisters, and cockles, and mussels, which move not, have no discriminate sex
- discriminate in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.
- discriminate in The Century Dictionary, New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911.