Blog Grammar Rules Separate: Definition and Meaning

Separate: Definition and Meaning

Hannah Yang

Hannah Yang

Speculative Fiction Author

Published Mar 22, 2022
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Separate meaning article

Separate is a versatile English word with many meanings, the most common of which is “to stop being together.” You can use this word in many different contexts, whether you’re writing an academic essay or a short story.

This article will explain what the word separate means, where it originates from, and how to use it in a sentence.

Contents:
  1. Separate Definition
  2. Separate Meaning
  3. Examples of Separate in a Sentence
  4. Origin of the Word Separate

Separate Definition

Separate can be either a verb or an adjective.

As a verb, it means “to stop being together, joined, or connected” or “to cause two things to stop being together or connected.”

As an adjective, it means “set apart” or “existing by itself.”

What does separate mean?

Separate Meaning

Let’s take a closer look at what each of these definitions means in practice.

Separate Verb

As a verb, separate describes the act of causing two or more things to stop being together. Different synonyms for this word include “part,” “sever,” and “divide.”

In a relationship, you might separate from your partner when you break up with them. At the office, you might separate a tall pile of papers into multiple piles. In the kitchen, you might separate one ingredient from the others.

Here are some other examples of how you can use separate as a verb:

  • The teacher will separate the children if they won’t stop talking during class.
  • The next step is to separate the egg yolk from the egg whites.
  • It’s important to separate your personal life from your professional life.

Separate Adjective

As an adjective, separate means that two or more things are not the same. You can use this word as a synonym for words like “distinct” and “discrete.”

In a relationship, you might say you and your partner have separate bathrooms. At the office, you might point out that a colleague is combining two separate issues. In the kitchen, you might use a separate cutting board to chop your raw meat.

Here are some other examples of how you can use separate as an adjective:

  • My best friend and I play basketball for separate teams, but our friendship has never wavered.
  • My mom sleeps in a separate room because my dad snores too loudly.
  • I think it’s time for you and I to go our separate ways.

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Another Adjective Form of Separate: Separated

We also use separated as an adjective. It’s distinct from separate as an adjective because separated implies more of a recent or deliberate split, while separate implies that two things were never connected in the first place.

For example, we often say that two people sleep in “separate beds” if they sleep in two different beds. It would sound strange to say that two people sleep in “separated beds” because this wording makes it sound like someone has physically moved their beds farther apart.

Here are some other examples of how you can use separated:

  • My parents are separated and plan to get divorced soon.
  • I got separated from the rest of the group when I stopped to tie my shoe.
  • The two farms are separated by a white picket fence.

The difference between separate and separated can be a tricky one to remember. If you tend to mix up the two, you can try using a grammar checker like ProWritingAid to make sure you’re always using the right word.

Separated correction

Examples of Separate in a Sentence

Let’s look at some examples of the word separate in popular English books.

“He listened to Roark silently, and his eyes were like a stopwatch registering each separate second consumed by each separate word of Roark’s.”—The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

“Long before he died, November’s father was gone, up north, away from his wife and the sea. They could not bear each other, in the end, and perhaps a thing begun in blood and death and salt must end that way. They could not live with less than three mountain ranges to separate them.”—Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente

“I no longer considered my body my own. It had ceased to belong to me. My hands, moving, felt separate, floating of their own accord, and when I stood it was like operating a marionette, unfolding myself, rising jerkily on strings.”—The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

“You want to know how to paint a perfect painting? It’s easy. Make yourself perfect and then just paint naturally. That’s the way all the experts do it. The making of a painting or the fixing of a motorcycle isn’t separate from the rest of your existence.”—Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

“Someone has said, when you are born into this world there are at least two of you, but going out you are on your own. Death happens to every one of us, yet it remains the most solitary of human experiences, one that separates rather than unites us.”—What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez

“But the magnitude, the depth of his wife’s grief for their son exerts a pull. It is like a dangerous current that, if he were to swim too close, might suck him in, plunge him under. He would never surface again; he must hold himself separate in order to survive.”—Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

“The calendar separates today from yesterday and tomorrow, but in life there is no distinguishing past, present, and future. We all have an enormity of time, too big for one person to deal with, and we live, and we die.”—Tokyo Ueno Station by Miri Yu

“Power can’t be separated from its history. A choice can’t be taken in isolation from its context.”—The Tyrant Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

Origin of the Word Separate

The word separate was first used in the 15th century. It comes from the Latin word separatus, which comes from the roots se- (meaning “apart”) and parare (meaning “prepare” or “procure.”)

Now you know what the word separate means and how to use it. We hope this article helps you separate your writing from the rest of the crowd!


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Hannah Yang

Hannah Yang

Speculative Fiction Author

Hannah is a speculative fiction writer who loves all things strange and surreal. She holds a BA from Yale University and lives in Colorado. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her painting watercolors, playing her ukulele, or hiking in the Rockies. Follow her work on hannahyang.com or on Twitter at @hannahxyang.

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