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From Middle English mistaken, from Old Norse mistaka (to take in error, to miscarry); equivalent to mis- +‎ take. Cognate with Icelandic mistaka (to mistake), Swedish missta (to mistake) (before apocope misstaga). Displaced Middle English misnimen and Middle English misfōn from Old English misfōn (and noun misfeng).

The noun, which replaced earlier mistaking, is derived from the verb.


  • IPA(key): /mɪˈsteɪk/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪk


mistake (third-person singular simple present mistakes, present participle mistaking, simple past mistook, past participle mistaken)

  1. (transitive) To understand wrongly, taking one thing or person for another.
    Sorry, I mistook you for my brother. You look very similar.
    Don't mistake my kindness for weakness.
    • c. 1597, William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2,[1]
      My father’s purposes have been mistook;
    • 1777, Samuel Johnson, “Life of the Author” in The Works of Richard Savage with an Account of the Life and Writings of the Author, London: T. Evans, Volume I, p. lxi,[2]
      The reigning error of his life was, that he mistook the love for the practice of virtue, and was indeed not so much a good man, as the friend of goodness.
  2. (transitive, obsolete) To misunderstand (someone).
  3. (intransitive, obsolete) To commit an unintentional error; to do or think something wrong.
    • c. 1598, William Shakespeare, Much Ado about Nothing, Act V, Scene 1,[5]
      Impose me to what penance your invention
      Can lay upon my sin: yet sinn’d I not
      But in mistaking.
    • 1720, Jonathan Swift, “Letter to a Young Clergyman” in The Works of Jonathan Swift, London: Charles Elliot, 1784, Volume 10, pp. 6-7,[6]
      No gentleman thinks it is safe or prudent to send a servant with a message, without repeating it more than once, and endeavouring to put it into terms brought down to the capacity of the bearer; yet, after all this care, it is frequent for servants to mistake, and sometimes occasion misunderstandings among friends []
  4. (obsolete, rare) To take or choose wrongly.
    • c. 1596, William Shakespeare, King John, Act III, Scene 1,[7]
      The better act of purposes mistook
      Is to mistake again; though indirect,
      Yet indirection thereby grows direct,
    • 1716, Alexander Pope (translator), The Iliad of Homer, London: Bernard Lintott, Volume 2, Book 8, lines 151-152, p. 252,[8]
      The Spear with erring Haste mistook its way,
      But plung’d in Eniopeus’ Bosom lay.


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

Related terms[edit]


mistake (plural mistakes)

  1. An error; a blunder.
    There were too many mistakes in the test, that unfortunately you failed.
    • 1877, Henry Heth, quoting Robert E. Lee, in "Causes of the Defeat of Gen. Lee's Army at the Battle of GettysburgOpinions of Leading Confederate Soldiers.", Southern Historical Society Papers (1877), editor Rev. J. WM. Jones [9]
      After it is all over, as stupid a fellow as I am can see that mistakes were made. I notice, however, that my mistakes are never told me until it is too late.
  2. (baseball) A pitch which was intended to be pitched in a hard-to-hit location, but instead ends up in an easy-to-hit place.

Usage notes[edit]


Derived terms[edit]





Borrowed from English mistake.


mistake m (plural mistakes)

  1. (Louisiana, Cajun French) error, mistake