1 of 2


: removed or distant either physically or emotionally
an aloof, unfriendly manner
He stood aloof from worldly success.John Buchan
aloofly adverb


2 of 2


: at a distance
trying to keep failure aloof

Did you know?

Can you be loof instead of aloof?

The English language has many words that contain a negative prefix, and for the most part these prefixes give us an easy way to parse the meaning of the prefix-less form: those who disagree fail to agree; to be unaware is to not be aware; and an amoral person is not concerned about the morality of their behavior.

But not every prefix that looks like a negative prefix is a negative prefix. While aloof is indeed formed from a prefix a- and a word loof, the prefix is not the negating one found in amoral, but is instead the prefix a- found in abed, aloud, and afire. Loof is a variant of luff, which in Middle English referred to the side of a ship that faces the wind; the earliest meaning of aloof was “to windward.” Soon after the word entered English it began to be used to mean “at a distance,” and soon after that, it took on the meaning of “physically or emotionally removed.”

Choose the Right Synonym for aloof

indifferent, unconcerned, incurious, aloof, detached, disinterested mean not showing or feeling interest.

indifferent implies neutrality of attitude from lack of inclination, preference, or prejudice.

indifferent to the dictates of fashion

unconcerned suggests a lack of sensitivity or regard for others' needs or troubles.

unconcerned about the homeless

incurious implies an inability to take a normal interest due to dullness of mind or to self-centeredness.

incurious about the world

aloof suggests a cool reserve arising from a sense of superiority or disdain for inferiors or from shyness.

aloof from his coworkers

detached implies an objective attitude achieved through absence of prejudice or selfishness.

observed family gatherings with detached amusement

disinterested implies a circumstantial freedom from concern for personal or especially financial advantage that enables one to judge or advise without bias.

judged by a panel of disinterested observers

Examples of aloof in a Sentence

Adjective In truth, he isn't so much aloof as he is courtly in a formal, afternoon-tea sort of way. Joe Klein, Time, 21 July 2003
Most American journalists who "do" politics cannot resist getting to know the Players. Walter Lippmann was typical of an earlier generation, the disinterested wise man who remained aloof, chiselling great thoughts on marble columns. Gore Vidal, Nation, 12 June 1995
Jeremy Price (this name and a few others have been changed), a black teacher from St. Paul's, tried a few times to make small talk, but he was a Brahmin from another planet: cool, ironic, aloof. Lorene Cary, Black Ice, 1991
Somehow, I remember the fireworks man as solitary, aloof, coveralled, perhaps sooty, staring straight ahead as he came, perhaps reflecting back on the trench-war violence he had just been a part of … George Plimpton, Fireworks, 1984
They tried to keep aloof from the politics of the day. the new kid was really not so aloof as we thought him at first, just painfully shy See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Just like that, the aloof doctor is trapped with five people who are very invested in her emotional state. Shania Russell,, 20 Feb. 2024 According to the authors of the research, the results challenge the traditional conception of cats as socially aloof, and suggest that some species — whether considered social or asocial — acquire the ability to recognize people’s voices as a result of close contact, rather than domestication. Sam Walters, Discover Magazine, 15 Feb. 2024 Cats have a well-deserved reputation for being independent-minded and aloof, preferring to interact with humans on their own quirky terms. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 14 Dec. 2023 Management is aloof, some legal questions are unresolved, and use of child and slave labor has also been questioned. Walter Loeb, Forbes, 11 Dec. 2023 And the pets seem, at first sight, to have only one facial expression: aloof. Ulrike Lemmin-Woolfrey, Discover Magazine, 5 Dec. 2023 Facing extinction, nonprofit companies can hardly afford to stand aloof from the power of money and the lure of media. Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times, 15 Dec. 2023 Then there were the huge, wide windows, which didn’t gaze over the river from some aloof height. Adriane Quinlan, Curbed, 10 Nov. 2023 Cats can sometimes get a bad rap for being aloof or not emotive. Margaret Osborne, Smithsonian Magazine, 3 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'aloof.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



derivative of aloof entry 2


from earlier aloof "(on a ship) to windward, toward the direction from which the wind is blowing (hence avoiding the lee shore)," from a- entry 1 + loof, variant of luff entry 1

First Known Use


1608, in the meaning defined above


1523, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of aloof was in 1523

Dictionary Entries Near aloof

Cite this Entry

“Aloof.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adverb
: at a distance : out of involvement


2 of 2 adjective
: removed or distant in interest or feeling : reserved
aloofly adverb
aloofness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on aloof

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