1. An error or fault resulting from defective judgment, deficient knowledge, or carelessness.
2. A misconception or misunderstanding.
v. mis·took (mĭ-stk), mis·tak·en (mĭ-stākən), mis·tak·ing, mis·takes
1. To understand wrongly; misinterpret: mistook my politeness for friendliness.
2. To recognize or identify incorrectly: He mistook her for her sister.
To make a mistake; err.
[From Middle English mistaken, to misunderstand, from Old Norse mistaka, to take in error : mis-, wrongly; see mei-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots + taka, to take.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 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.