Disinterested vs. Uninterested – What’s the Difference?

The most vibrant parts of life are colored by nuance. It is simple to say that someone is enthusiastic about something, but if we choose excited, zealous, or passionate instead, we can add a whole new dimension of meaning to the same piece of writing.

Similarly, a person who is not enthusiastic about something could be said to be bored, uninterested, or apathetic. What nuances in meaning do these choices unlock?

What is the Difference Between Disinterested and Uninterested?

In this article, I will discuss disinterested vs. uninterested. I will use each word in example sentences, so you can it in its proper context.

Plus, I will show you a useful memory tool that will let you know whether you are disinterested or uninterested in something.

When to Use Uninterested

disinterested versus uninterestedWhat does uninterested mean? Uninterested is an adjective. It means inattentive or unconcerned.

Here are a few examples,

  • “I am uninterested in politics,” said Aiden, a sports aficionado.
  • The kids are uninterested in our vacation plans, so they will have to put up with whatever destination we choose.
  • The teacher heaped praise on Karl Pearson’s statistical testing method, but her students were uninterested.
  • But the Epix launch came amid the Great Recession, and pay-TV distributors initially were uninterested in adding another expensive movie channel to their line-ups. –LA Times

If you are sitting bored in a classroom, you are uninterested in the subject matter. In this sense, uninterested is a synonym for bored, unenthusiastic, not excited, etc.

When to Use Disinterested

Definition of uninterested definition of disinterested definitionWhat does disinterested mean? Disinterested is also an adjective. Its noun form is disinterest. Disinterested is a rough synonym for impartial, but it also describes the condition of not standing to gain from taking a side.

In other words, a disinterested person can be unbiased because no judgment he could make in a given situation would benefit him.

Here are some examples of disinterested in a sentence,

  • Kelly is a good referee because her kids don’t play soccer, so she is disinterested in the outcome of the matches.
  • Aunty Kim always tries to be fair when she settles her nephews’ arguments, but she cannot be said to be completely disinterested.
  • Disinterest is an admirable quality in a federal judge.
  • That unethical encounter had tainted Lynch’s pose of disinterested adjudication, and she accordingly de facto fobbed off her prosecutorial responsibilities to Comey. –National Review

Disinterested is often used in place of uninterested to mean bored or uncaring. Though common, this usage is imprecise and should be avoided.

If you are a journalist or news writer, The AP Stylebook states, “Disinterested means impartial, which is usually the better word to convey the thought. Uninterested means that someone lack interest.”

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define uninterested and define disinterestedAs noted above, disinterested is often misused as a synonym for uninterested. Still, these words have separate meanings, and should be used as such.

  • To be disinterested is to be unbiased and impartial.
  • To be uninterested is to be inattentive or bored.

To help you remember uninterested vs. disinterested, remember that someone who is disinterested has no dog in the fight. Since disinterested and dog each begin with the letter D, this should be an easy image to remember.

Summary

Is it disinterested or uninterested? Disinterested and uninterested are adjectives. Disinterested means unbiased, while uninterested means inattentive. Disinterest is sometimes used to mean both of these things.

As a memory aid, remember that disinterested people have no dog in the race. Disinterested and dog each begin with the same letter, so you should have no trouble picking disinterested or uninterested in your writing.

Remember, you can always reread this article any time you need a quick refresher.

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