AskDefine | Define distract

Dictionary Definition



1 draw someone's attention away from something; "The thief distracted the bystanders"; "He deflected his competitors" [syn: deflect]
2 disturb in mind or make uneasy or cause to be worried or alarmed; "She was rather perturbed by the news that her father was seriously ill" [syn: perturb, unhinge, disquiet, trouble, cark, disorder]

User Contributed Dictionary



From distrahere, "to pull apart", from dis-, + trahere, "to pull".


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


To divert the attention of

Extensive Definition

Distraction is the diversion of attention of an individual or group from the chosen object of attention onto the source of distraction. Distraction is caused by one of the following: lack of ability to pay attention; lack of interest in the object of attention; greater interest in something other than the object of attention; or the great intensity, novelty or attractiveness of something other than the object of attention. Distractions come from both external sources (physical stimuli through the five senses), or internal sources (thought, emotion, fantasies, physical urges). Divided attention, as in multi-tasking could also be considered as distraction in situations requiring full attention on a single object (e.g., sports, academic tests, performance). Distraction is a major cause of procrastination.

Distraction by media

The media (television, reading, video games), can be a great source of distraction.
In many cases, media is viewed as more entertaining than the object of attention. The brightly colored images and appealing sounds also divert attention. The case of Shawn Woolley was a very extreme case; he became particularly involved in the computer game Everquest and quit his job to dedicate up to 12 hours a day playing the game.

Distraction in wildlife, warfare, medicine and crime

  • Fake targets:
    • In open field with mass military strategy, sometimes a contingent of troops is used to distract the enemy army so their flank is exposed, or to draw them away from a key point or fortification, such as a city.
    • Flares can be used to divert the enemy soldiers' gaze
  • Distraction is useful in the management of pain and anxiety. Dentists, for example may intentionally hum an annoying tune or engage in small talk just to distract a patient's attention away from the dental drill. Doctors may prescribe topical ointments containing capsaicin, which produces a superficial burning sensation that can temporarily distract a patient's attention away from the deeper pain of arthritis or muscle strain.
  • Pickpockets and other thieves, especially those working in teams, sometimes apply distraction, such as asking a question, bumping into the victim, or deliberately dirtying the victim's clothing and then "helping" him/her to clean it.
  • Animals with fake eyes on their back distract their predators with the fake eyes.
  • Physical distraction may occur or be applied through various forces like gravity or magnetism. For example, electromagnetic energy from a cathode ray tube (which composes a television screen) can cause distraction.

External links

distract in Lithuanian: Išsiblaškymas

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

absorb, addle, agitate, amuse, ball up, befuddle, beguile, bemuse, bewilder, blunt, bother, bug, call away, chill, confound, confuse, convulse, cool, craze, damp, dampen, daze, deflect, delight, dement, derange, deter, detract, detract attention, disaffect, discompose, disconcert, discourage, disincline, disinterest, disturb, divert, divert the mind, drive insane, drive mad, embroil, engross, entertain, fluster, frenzy, fuddle, gratify, indispose, interest, mad, madden, make mad, mix up, mystify, occupy, perplex, perturb, psych, put off, puzzle, quench, rattle, repel, send mad, shatter, sidetrack, spook, throw, throw into confusion, throw off, trouble, turn aside, turn away, turn from, turn off, unbalance, unhinge, unsettle, upset, wean from
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