v. sep·a·rat·ed, sep·a·rat·ing, sep·a·rates
a. To set, force, or keep apart: The referee separated the two boxers.
b. To put space between; space apart or scatter: small farms that were separated one from another by miles of open land.
c. To form a border or barrier between (two areas or groups): A hedge separates the two yards.
d. To place in different groups; sort: separate mail by postal zones.
a. To differentiate or discriminate between; distinguish: a researcher who separated the various ethnic components of the population sample.
b. To cause to be distinct or different: His natural talent separates him from all the others in the choir.
3. To remove from a mixture or combination; isolate.
4. To cause (one person) to stop living with another, or to cause (a couple) to stop living together, often by decree: She was separated from her husband last year. The couple have been separated for a year.
5. To terminate a contractual relationship with (someone); discharge.
1. To come apart; become detached: The lining has separated from the inside of the coat.
2. To withdraw or break away: The state threatened to separate from the Union.
3. To part company; go away from each other; disperse: The friends separated at the end of the school year.
4. To stop living together as a couple: They separated after 10 years of marriage.
5. To become divided into components or parts: Oil and water tend to separate.
adj. (sĕpər-ĭt, sĕprĭt)
1. Not touching or adjoined; detached: The garage is separate from the house.
a. Existing or considered as an independent entity: The reference collection is separate from the rest of the library.
b. Dissimilar from all others; distinct or individual: a cable made of many separate fibers; two people who hold separate views on the issue.
c. often Separate Having undergone schism or estrangement from a parent body: Separate churches.
n. (sĕpər-ĭt, sĕprĭt)
Something that is separate or distinct, especially:
a. A garment, such as a skirt, jacket, or pair of slacks, that may be purchased separately and worn in various combinations with other garments.
b. A stereo component that is purchased separately and connected to other components as part of a system.
c. An offprint of an article.
[Middle English separaten, from Latin sēparātus, past participle of sēparāre : sē-, apart; see s(w)e- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots + parāre, to prepare; see perə-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: separate, divide, part, sever, sunder, divorce
These verbs mean to become or cause to become parted, disconnected, or disunited. Separate applies both to putting apart and to keeping apart: "In the darkness and confusion, the bands of these commanders became separated from each other" (Washington Irving).
Divide implies separation by or as if by cutting or splitting into parts or shares; the term often refers to separation into opposing or hostile groups: We divided the orange into segments. "'A house divided against itself cannot stand.' I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free" (Abraham Lincoln).
Part refers most often to the separation of closely associated persons or things: "Because ... nothing that God or Satan could inflict would have parted us" (Emily Brontë).
Sever usually implies abruptness and force: "His head was nearly severed from his body" (H.G. Wells).
Sunder stresses violent tearing or wrenching apart: The country was sundered by civil war. Divorce implies complete separation: "a priest and a soldier, two classes of men circumstantially divorced from the kind and homely ties of life" (Robert Louis Stevenson). See Also Synonyms at distinct.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.