Constituting the bulk of rare-earth elements, lanthanides need to be separated to fully realize their potential as critical materials in many important technologies. The discovery of new ligands for improving rare-earth separations by solvent extraction, the most practical rare-earth separation process, is still largely based on trial and error, a low-throughput and inefficient approach. A predictive model that allows high-throughput screening of ligands is needed to identify suitable ligands to achieve enhanced separation performance. Here, we show that deep neural networks, trained on the available experimental data, can be used to predict accurate distribution coefficients for solvent extraction of lanthanide ions, thereby opening the door to high-throughput screening of ligands for rare-earth separations. One innovative approach that we employed is a combined representation of ligands with both molecular physicochemical descriptors and atomic extended-connectivity fingerprints, which greatly boosts the accuracy of the trained model. More importantly, we synthesized four new ligands and found that the predicted distribution coefficients from our trained machine-learning model match well with the measured values. Therefore, our machine-learning approach paves the way for accelerating the discovery of new ligands for rare-earth separations.