indifferent

adjective

in·​dif·​fer·​ent in-ˈdi-f(ə-)rənt How to pronounce indifferent (audio)
-fərnt
1
a
: marked by a lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern for something : apathetic
indifferent to suffering and poverty
b
: marked by no special liking for or dislike of something
indifferent about which task he was given
2
a
: being neither good nor bad : mediocre
does indifferent work
b
: being neither right nor wrong
3
: being neither excessive nor inadequate : moderate
hills of indifferent size
4
: marked by impartiality : unbiased
5
a
: that does not matter one way or the other
b
: of no importance or value one way or the other
6
: characterized by lack of active quality : neutral
an indifferent chemical
7
a
: not differentiated
indifferent tissues of the human body
b
: capable of development in more than one direction
especially : not yet embryologically determined
indifferently adverb

Did you know?

The Many Shades of Indifferent

Many of the words in our language have more than a single meaning. In most cases we have little trouble distinguishing them; we understand, based on the context in which each is used, that the English of "the English language" is different from the English used in billiards or pool ("spin around the vertical axis deliberately imparted to a ball that is driven or rolled"). In other cases, such as with the word indifferent, it can be a bit confusing. Indifferent may mean "unbiased," "apathetic," "mediocre," "unimportant," and several other things. Some of these senses are distinguished by the words commonly used with them; the "apathetic" sense, for instance, is typically followed by the preposition to. When using indifferent in your own writing take care that the surrounding words offer your reader sufficient context to prevent confusion.

Choose the Right Synonym for indifferent

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 indifferent in a Sentence

It can hardly be argued, by himself or by his defenders, that he was indifferent to, or unaware of, the true situation. Christopher Hitchens, Harper's, March 2001
… aspects of language that the earlier grammarians were indifferent to. Geoffrey Nunberg, Atlantic, December 1983
For it is commonly said and commonly believed that science is completely neutral and indifferent as to the ends and values which move men to act … John Dewey, Freedom and Culture, 1939
The movie was poorly received by an indifferent public. Was the food good, bad, or indifferent?
Recent Examples on the Web The play saw numerous characters transform into rhinoceroses while others around them remained indifferent, a mass metamorphosis that mirrored the rise of Nazi fascism before World War II. Siddhant Adlakha, Variety, 20 Feb. 2024 In 1942, Ben-Gurion travelled to the Biltmore Hotel, in New York, to meet with American Jewish leaders, who until then had largely been indifferent or opposed to the creation of a Jewish state. Gideon Lewis-Kraus, The New Yorker, 15 Feb. 2024 The indifferent play of Dubois, the big-ticket acquisition whose eight-year, $68-million contract put them up against the salary-cap limit, remains a significant concern. Helene Elliott, Los Angeles Times, 2 Feb. 2024 The candidates in the current Republican Presidential primaries have generally been so dyspeptic, and the voters so broadly indifferent, that the early campaign has been drained of its usual political romance and contingency. Benjamin Wallace-Wells, The New Yorker, 16 Jan. 2024 And those who are indifferent are the absolute few. Scott Roxborough, The Hollywood Reporter, 15 Jan. 2024 Progressivism acts like a blob that is indifferent to the institutions in which its members play roles. Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review, 10 Jan. 2024 As an educator in the humanities, the new year brings challenges with the latest technologies, hostile politics and an increasingly indifferent public. Jim Miller, San Diego Union-Tribune, 28 Dec. 2023 But Bartley has always been indifferent about gear. Chris Almeida, The New Yorker, 6 Jan. 2024 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Middle English, from Anglo-French or Latin; Anglo-French, from Latin indifferent-, indifferens, from in- + different-, differens, present participle of differre to be different — more at differ

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

Time Traveler
The first known use of indifferent was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near indifferent

Cite this Entry

“Indifferent.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/indifferent. Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

indifferent

adjective
in·​dif·​fer·​ent in-ˈdif-ərnt How to pronounce indifferent (audio)
-ˈdif-(ə-)rənt
1
a
: having or showing no special liking for or dislike of something
the audience was indifferent
b
: not interested or concerned
indifferent to the troubles of others
2
: neither good nor bad : mediocre
indifferent health
3
: of no special influence or value : not important
that fact is indifferent to the argument
indifferently adverb

Medical Definition

indifferent

adjective
in·​dif·​fer·​ent in-ˈdif-ərnt, -ˈdif-(ə-)rent How to pronounce indifferent (audio)
1
: having or exhibiting a lack of affect, concern, or care
2
a
: not differentiated
indifferent tissues of the human body
b
: capable of development in more than one direction
especially : not yet embryologically determined
indifferently adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on indifferent

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