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Borrowed from Latin distractus, from distraho (to pull apart), from dis- + traho (to pull).



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

  1. (transitive) To divert the attention of.
    • 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.
    The crowd was distracted by a helicopter hovering over the stadium when the only goal of the game was scored.

Related terms[edit]



distract (not comparable)

  1. (obsolete) Separated; drawn asunder.
  2. (obsolete) Insane; mad.
    • Michael Drayton
      (Alone she being left the spoil of love and death,
      In labour of her grief outrageously distract,
      The utmost of her spleen on her false lord to act)

See also[edit]