Tag Archives: disinterested vs. uninterested

Find the Error

This from the Los Angeles Times recently:

Throughout American history, incumbent presidents run for a second term by highlighting policy accomplishments. But President Trump is far from typical—uniquely disinterested in most policy matters and instead focused on personal grievances and political quarrels.

Did you spot the word that’s used incorrectly? It’s disinterested. That word most commonly means unbiased, having no preference one way or the other, open to all points of view. The correct word would be uninterested, displaying a lack of interest.

I do admit that disinterested is more and more often used as a synonym for uninterested; because languages are changed by their users, it will be a matter of time before the word on the street can claim victory.

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Disinterested vs. Uninterested


I was listening to an NPR report about the Boston Marathon trial, and the defendant, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was described as appearing “disinterested.” I would bet my life he looked “uninterested.” Certainly the judge and jurors should be disinterested, but not the defendant.

“Disinterested” means unbiased; how could Tsarnaev possibly be unbiased at his own trial? He might have looked as if he was unbiased, but in no way could that be true.

Of course, in time these two words will become synonymous for “not caring” because that is the way so many people are using them today. Maybe I’m the last holdout. People will no longer use “disinterested” to mean “unbiased” and the latter will be used in its stead. But until next Tuesday, a distinction still exists.

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Do You Mean Dis— or Un—?

“The pitcher seemed disinterested for the first two innings, but then he came to life and struck out three players in a row.”

That pitcher may have appeared uninterested (meaning he didn’t seem to care, was not interested), but given his enormous salary and perks, it is highly unlikely he was disinterested (meaning unbiased).

A judge and jury should be/must be disinterested in your case, but it would be terrible if they were uninterested.

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