To differentiate is to identify the differences between things, to discriminate among them. For example, if the light is dim at the party, you might find it hard to differentiate between the spicy bean dip and the chocolate sauce.

You can see different in differentiate. This will help you remember that it has to do with finding how things are different, or making them different. For example, identical twins look alike but if you get to know them, personality traits, speech patterns and their likes and dislikes help differentiate one from another. Also, when you wear a team uniform the number on your back helps coaches differentiate between teammates when everyone is playing fast.

Definitions of differentiate
  1. verb
    become distinct and acquire a different character
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    type of:
    become dissimilar or less similar
  2. verb
    mark as different
    synonyms: distinguish, secern, secernate, separate, severalise, severalize, tell, tell apart
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    be able to distinguish, recognize as being different
    discern, discriminate, know apart
    recognize or perceive the difference
    distinguish (an element or atom) by using a radioactive isotope or an isotope of unusual mass for tracing through chemical reactions
    distinguish (as a compound or molecule) by introducing a labeled atom
    tell the sex (of young chickens)
    individualise, individualize
    make or mark or treat as individual
    put in opposition to show or emphasize differences
    severalise, severalize
    distinguish or separate
    distinguish by contrasting qualities
    decouple, dissociate
    regard as unconnected
    separate clearly, as if by boundaries
    discriminate, separate, single out
    treat differently on the basis of sex or race
    divide society into social classes or castes
    insulate, isolate
    place or set apart
    mark fine distinctions and subtleties, as among words
    hive off
    remove from a group and make separate
    separate by race or religion; practice a policy of racial segregation
    discriminate in selling or renting housing in certain areas of a neighborhood
    disadvantage, disfavor, disfavour
    put at a disadvantage; hinder, harm
    type of:
    identify, place
    recognize as being; establish the identity of someone or something
  3. verb
    be a distinctive feature, attribute, or trait; sometimes in a very positive sense
    synonyms: distinguish, mark
    designate as if by a mark
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    characterise, characterize
    be characteristic of
    give individual character to
    determine the nature of
    type of:
    characterise, characterize, qualify
    describe or portray the character or the qualities or peculiarities of
  4. verb
    become different during development
    “cells differentiate
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    lose specialization in form or function
    type of:
    grow, progress, unfold, or evolve through a process of evolution, natural growth, differentiation, or a conducive environment
  5. verb
    evolve so as to lead to a new species or develop in a way most suited to the environment
    synonyms: specialise, specialize, speciate
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    type of:
    undergo development or evolution
  6. verb
    calculate a derivative; take the derivative
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    calculate the integral of; calculate by integration
    type of:
    calculate, cipher, compute, cypher, figure, reckon, work out
    make a mathematical calculation or computation
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