Disinterested and Uninterested

Commonly Confused Words

James J. Kilpatrick, The Writer's Art (Andrews McMeel, 1984).

The adjective disinterested means impartial and without bias.

The adjective uninterested means indifferent or unconcerned.


  • "I had a great desire to do a disinterested and pure thing--to express my belief in something higher."
    (Saul Bellow, Henderson the Rain King, 1959)
  • "Disinterested intellectual curiosity is the life blood of real civilization." (G. M. Trevelyan)
  • "Americans are not isolationist; they're uninterested. So foreign policy is neglected, presidents find it hard to lead, and the noisy few trump the quiet many." (James M. Lindsay, Foreign Affairs, September/October 2000)

    Usage Notes:

    • "You can be disinterested in something but not uninterested, and vice versa. For instance, because I'm not a betting man, I don't stand to gain or lose anything in the outcome of most sporting events; I might still enjoy watching a game: I'm disinterested but not uninterested. Conversely, I might not care about the intricacies of tax policies, but I certainly have a stake in the outcome: I'm uninterested but not disinterested."
      (Jack Lynch, "Disinterested versus Uninterested," The English Language: A User's Guide. Focus Publishing, 2008)
    • "A large number of educated speakers and writers, for whatever reason, object to disinterested in the sense 'uninterested, unconcerned'--a sense it previously had but lost for awhile--and want the word to have only the meaning 'impartial, unprejudiced.' The criticized use has nevertheless gained such ground that it has practically driven out the other one. That change causes no harm to language as communication. We have merely lost a synonym for impartial and gained one for indifferent."
      (John Algeo, The Origins and Development of the English Language, 6th ed. Wadsworth, 2010)


      (a) A lively, _____, persistent looking for truth is extraordinarily rare. (Henri Amiel)

      (b) There are no uninteresting things; there are only _____ people.

      Answers to Practice Exercises

      Answers to Practice Exercises: Disinterested and Uninterested

      (a) A lively, disinterested, persistent looking for truth is extraordinarily rare.

      (Henri Amiel)

      (b) There are no uninteresting things; there are only uninterested people.

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      Your Citation
      Nordquist, Richard. "Disinterested and Uninterested." ThoughtCo, Sep. 2, 2017, thoughtco.com/disinterested-and-uninterested-1689552. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, September 2). Disinterested and Uninterested. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/disinterested-and-uninterested-1689552 Nordquist, Richard. "Disinterested and Uninterested." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/disinterested-and-uninterested-1689552 (accessed March 18, 2018).