verb dis·turb \ di-ˈstərb \
|Updated on: 15 Aug 2018

Definition of disturb

1 a : to interfere with : interrupt
  • disturbing the flow of traffic
b : to alter the position or arrangement of
  • the items on her desk had been disturbed
c : to upset the natural and especially the ecological balance or relations of
  • wetlands disturbed by development
2 a : to destroy the tranquility or composure of
  • The noisy lawnmower disturbed their sleep.
  • was disturbed by his bizarre behavior
b : to throw into disorder
  • disturbing our routine
c : alarm
  • trying not to disturb the sleeping dogs
d : to put to inconvenience
  • sorry to disturb you at such a late hour




play \-ˈstər-biŋ-lē\ adverb

Examples of disturb in a Sentence

  1. I'm sorry to disturb you at such a late hour.

  2. She doesn't want to be disturbed while she's working.

  3. Don't disturb the baby when he's sleeping.

  4. The noise disturbed my concentration.

Recent Examples of disturb from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology of disturb

Middle English disturben, destourben, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French destorber, from Latin disturbare, from dis- + turbare to throw into disorder, from turba disorder — more at turbid

Synonym Discussion of disturb

discompose, disquiet, disturb, perturb, agitate, upset, fluster mean to destroy capacity for collected thought or decisive action. discompose implies some degree of loss of self-control or self-confidence especially through emotional stress.
    • discomposed by the loss of his beloved wife
disquiet suggests loss of sense of security or peace of mind.
    • the disquieting news of factories closing
disturb implies interference with one's mental processes caused by worry, perplexity, or interruption.
    • the discrepancy in accounts disturbed me
perturb implies deep disturbance of mind and emotions.
    • perturbed by her husband's strange behavior
agitate suggests obvious external signs of nervous or emotional excitement.
    • in his agitated state we could see he was unable to work
upset implies the disturbance of normal or habitual functioning by disappointment, distress, or grief.
    • the family's constant bickering upsets the youngest child
fluster suggests bewildered agitation.
    • his declaration of love completely flustered her

DISTURB Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of disturb for English Language Learners

  • : to stop (someone) from working, sleeping, etc. : to interrupt or bother (someone or something)

  • : to worry or upset (someone)

  • : to change the position, arrangement, or order of (something)

DISTURB Defined for Kids


verb dis·turb \ di-ˈstərb \

Definition of disturb for Students

disturbed; disturbing
1 : to interfere with : interrupt
  • Don't disturb him while he's working.
2 : to change the position or arrangement of
3 : 1upset 1, worry
  • I am very disturbed by your behavior.
4 : to make confused or disordered
  • disturb the peace

Word Root of disturb

The Latin word turba, meaning “disorder,” gives us the root turb. Words from the Latin turba have something to do with disorder. To disturb is to cause disorder to something or to someone's feelings. To perturb, or trouble, is to cause disorder to someone's mind. Anything turbulent is in a state of violence or disorder.

Law Dictionary


transitive verb dis·turb

legal Definition of disturb

1 : to destroy the tranquillity or composure of
2 : to throw into disorder
: to cause disturbance
disturb the peace
: to cause a disturbance

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very hard to disturb or upset

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