Definition of differentiate in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˌdifəˈren(t)SHēˌāt/


[with object]
1Recognize or ascertain what makes (someone or something) different: children can differentiate the past from the present
More example sentences
  • This is the first challenge in the process of managing spam: how to get a computer to analyze these strings to recognize and differentiate the welcome from the unwelcome emails.
  • It is not yet possible for patients to recognise faces, but they can at least differentiate large objects that are moving in their environment.
  • We will also attempt to determine the line that differentiates the normal from the abnormal, and how to deal with each of these cases as a result of this demarcation.
1.1 [no object] (differentiate between) Identify differences between (two or more things or people): he is unable to differentiate between fantasy and reality
More example sentences
  • We experienced some difficulty identifying whale species during the count, especially differentiating between bowhead and gray whales.
  • However, neither system accurately identifies vehicles needed for wartime missions or differentiates between wartime- and peacetime-use vehicles.
  • While most of us can easily identify a cactus, it may be harder to differentiate between an agave and an aloe.
distinguish, discriminate, make/draw a distinction, tell the difference, tell apart
1.2Make (someone or something) appear different or distinct: Twain was careful to differentiate Huck’s speech from that of other white people
More example sentences
  • Distinct characteristics also differentiate this family of plants.
  • We distinguish four dimensions that differentiate federal systems.
  • In summary, the modern international system displays six sharp distinctions that differentiate it from those of the ancient and classical world.
make different, distinguish, set apart, single out, separate, mark off
2 technical Make or become different in the process of growth or development: [with object]: the receptors are developed and differentiated into sense organs [no object]: the cells differentiate into a wide variety of cell types
More example sentences
  • Proecdysial growth of the limb bud consists of rapid growth of the muscle cells that were differentiated during the basal growth period.
  • By developing suitable tests with embryonic stem cells as they differentiate to germ cells we can investigate the action of these chemicals in the laboratory.
  • Recent reports suggest that adult stem cells can differentiate into developmentally unrelated cell types.
3 Mathematics Transform (a function) into its derivative.
Example sentences
  • In his reply Leibniz gave some details of the principles of his differential calculus including the rule for differentiating a function of a function.
  • We will also think about how functions are built from component parts, and how we differentiate a function by considering these parts individually and how they are combined.
  • When trying to differentiate a complicated function, the method is to decompose it into simpler components, and work with these separately.



Pronunciation: /-ˌātər/
Example sentences
  • Traditional differentiators, such as lease expensive cost, are not considered as high a priority as customer elements.
  • Customer service excellence is one of the major differentiators in India's highly competitive insurance market.
  • The performance gap between the cars will narrow, so the driver will become a more significant differentiator in success - and that will make drivers a more valuable commodity.


Early 19th century: from medieval Latin differentiat- 'carried away from', from the verb differentiare, from differentia (see differentia).

Words that rhyme with differentiate


For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: dif·fer·en·ti·ate

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.