disinterested

adjective

dis·​in·​ter·​est·​ed (ˌ)dis-ˈin-trə-stəd How to pronounce disinterested (audio)
-ˈin-tə-ˌre-,
-tə-rə-,
-tər-;
-ˈin-ˌtre-
1
a
: not having the mind or feelings engaged (see engaged sense 1) : not interested
telling them in a disinterested voice Tom Wicker
disinterested in women J. A. Brussel
b
: no longer interested
husband and wife become disinterested in each other T. I. Rubin
2
: free from selfish motive or interest (see interest entry 1 sense 1a) : unbiased
a disinterested decision
disinterested intellectual curiosity is the lifeblood of real civilization G. M. Trevelyan
disinterestedly adverb
Disinterested vs. Uninterested: Usage Guide

Disinterested and uninterested have a tangled history. Uninterested originally meant impartial, but this sense fell into disuse during the 18th century. About the same time the original sense of disinterested also disappeared, with uninterested developing a new sense—the present meaning—to take its place. The original sense of uninterested is still out of use, but the original sense of disinterested revived in the early 20th century. The revival has since been under frequent attack as an illiteracy and a blurring or loss of a useful distinction. Actual usage shows otherwise. The "free from selfish interest" sense of disinterested is still its most frequent sense, especially in edited prose; it shows no sign of vanishing. Further, disinterested has developed an additional sense—"no longer interested"—perhaps influenced by the "deprive of" sense of the prefix dis-, that contrasts with uninterested.

when I grow tired or disinterested in anything, I experience a disgust Jack London, letter, 1914

Still, use of the "not interested" and "no longer interested" senses of disinterested will incur the disapproval of some who may not fully appreciate the history of this word or the subtleties of its present use.

Choose the Right Synonym for disinterested

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

Example Sentences

the disinterested pursuit of truth the city's philistines, naturally disinterested in art, voted to cut the museum's budget
Recent Examples on the Web As Emerald informs a disinterested white film crew on a commercial set, they are proudly descended from the unnamed Black rider in Eadweard Muybridge‘s famous 1878 photographic sequence, celebrated as the first motion picture. Jen Yamato, Los Angeles Times, 23 July 2022 Alito and Thomas and the rest were not engaged in a disinterested scrutiny of rights and rules. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 6 July 2022 With the help of a disinterested third party (therapist, etc.)? Carolyn Hax, Washington Post, 8 June 2022 So the musically milquetoast, moon-eyed ballads met with big singalongs in town last September were greeted largely with disinterested chatter among Chesney fans across the stadium. Piet Levy, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 15 May 2022 There's just one problem: The process of line-drawing, of deciding which opinions are acceptable and which are not, is not a disinterested act. Damon Linker, The Week, 26 Apr. 2022 Alfred's non-performance for an office full of disinterested cubicle drones is a whole Twilight Zone in under 30 seconds. Darren Franich, EW.com, 22 Mar. 2022 Photographs can’t help spectacularizing violence, given that a disinterested object, the camera, is interposed between the viewer and the viewed. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, 14 Mar. 2022 Eckersberg revolutionized training in the academy, persuading his students to pursue direct observation of everyday settings and a disinterested, almost scientific fidelity to natural light. Washington Post, 2 Mar. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'disinterested.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

First Known Use

circa 1612, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of disinterested was circa 1612

Podcast

Dictionary Entries Near disinterested

Cite this Entry

“Disinterested.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disinterested. Accessed 7 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

disinterested

adjective

dis·​in·​ter·​est·​ed dis-ˈint-ə-res-təd How to pronounce disinterested (audio)
ˈdis-;
-ˈin-trəs-,
-ˌtres-;
-ˈint-ərs-,
-ˈint-ə-rəs-
1
: not interested
2
: not influenced by personal feelings, opinions, or concerns : unbiased
a disinterested decision
disinterestedly adverb
disinterestedness noun

Legal Definition

disinterested

adjective

: free of any interest especially of a pecuniary nature : impartial
a disinterested person to witness the will

More from Merriam-Webster on disinterested

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


Odd Habits and Quirks

  • image1926873504
  • Which of the following best describes an easily irritated person?
Name That Thing

You know what it looks like… but what is it called?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ