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Borrowed from Latin distractus, from distrahō (to pull apart), from dis- + trahō (to pull).


  • IPA(key): /dɪsˈtɹækt/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ækt


distract (third-person singular simple present distracts, present participle distracting, simple past and past participle distracted)

  1. (transitive) To divert the attention of.
    The crowd was distracted by a helicopter hovering over the stadium when the only goal of the game was scored.
    • 2011 December 10, David Ornstein, “Arsenal 1-0 Everton”, in BBC Sport:
      While Gunners boss Arsene Wenger had warned his players against letting the pre-match festivities distract them from the task at hand, they clearly struggled for fluency early on.
    • 2013 June 29, “Travels and travails”, in The Economist, volume 407, number 8842, page 55:
      Even without hovering drones, a lurking assassin, a thumping score and a denouement, the real-life story of Edward Snowden, a rogue spy on the run, could be straight out of the cinema. But, as with Hollywood, the subplots and exotic locations may distract from the real message: America’s discomfort and its foes’ glee.
    • 2020 December 2, Paul Bigland, “My weirdest and wackiest Rover yet”, in Rail, page 65:
      I eschew the idea of plugging in my laptop to take notes and resort to old-fashioned pen and paper instead, so that I can enjoy more of the view and not be distracted by bashing a keyboard.
  2. (transitive) To make crazy or insane; to drive to distraction.

Related terms[edit]



distract (not comparable)

  1. (obsolete) Separated; drawn asunder.
  2. (obsolete) Insane; mad.
    • 1612, Michael Drayton, Poly-Olbion, song 6 p. 3:
      (Alone shee beeing left the spoyle of love and death,
      In labour of her griefe outrageously distract,
      The utmost of her spleene on her false lord to act)

See also[edit]