Definition of disinterested
1 a : not having the mind or feelings engaged : 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 : unbiased <a disinterested decision> <disinterested intellectual curiosity is the lifeblood of real civilization — G. M. Trevelyan>
Usage Discussion of disinterested
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. Sense 2 of disinterested is still its most frequent sense, especially in edited prose; it shows no sign of vanishing. A careful writer may choose sense 1a of disinterested in preference to uninterested for emphasis <teaching the letters of the alphabet to her wiggling and supremely disinterested little daughter — C. L. Sulzberger>. Further, disinterested has developed a sense (1b), perhaps influenced by sense 1 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 senses 1a and 1b will incur the disapproval of some who may not fully appreciate the history of this word or the subtleties of its present use.
Examples of disinterested in a sentence
the disinterested pursuit of truth
<the city's philistines, naturally disinterested in art, voted to cut the museum's budget>
Did You Know?
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 sense of disinterested describing someone not having the mind or feelings engaged also disappeared, only to have uninterested take its place. The original sense of uninterested is still out of use, but the original ("not interested") sense of disinterested revived in the early 20th century. The revival has come under frequent attack as an illiteracy and a blurring or loss of a useful distinction. However, actual usage shows that writers and speakers use these words with intention. For instance, a writer may choose disinterested in preference to uninterested for emphasis, as in "a supremely disinterested child." Further, disinterested has developed a sense meaning "no longer interested," which is clearly distinguishable from uninterested.
First Known Use of disinterested
Synonym Discussion of disinterested
DISINTERESTED Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of disinterested for English Language Learners
: not influenced by personal feelings, opinions, or concerns
: having no desire to know about a particular thing : not interested
DISINTERESTED Defined for Kids
Definition of disinterested for Students
1 : not interested <disinterested in sports>
2 : not influenced by personal feelings or concerns <a disinterested judge>
Seen and Heard
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