in·​dif·​fer·​ent | \ in-ˈdi-fərnt, -f(ə-)rənt How to pronounce indifferent (audio) \

Essential Meaning of indifferent

1 : not interested in or concerned about something She was amazed that people could be so indifferent about the trial. [=could care so little about the trial] The movie was poorly received by an indifferent public.
2 : neither good nor bad : not very good She was tired and gave a rather indifferent [=unimpressive] performance. indifferent [=mediocre] leadership Was the food good, bad, or indifferent?

Full Definition of indifferent

1a : 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
2a : 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
5a : 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
7a : not differentiated indifferent tissues of the human body
b : capable of development in more than one direction especially : not yet embryologically determined

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Other Words from indifferent

indifferently adverb

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

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.

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?
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Recent Examples on the Web Scott has long made movies about how systems of power exist to serve only the powerful, from the faceless corporations of Alien to the indifferent cops of Thelma and Louise. David Sims, The Atlantic, 13 Oct. 2021 Boudin, in particular, has emerged as a polarizing figure, beloved by people who share his vision of compassionate sentencing and diversion programs, but intensely criticized by residents who see him as too lenient and indifferent to crime victims. Rachel Swan, San Francisco Chronicle, 12 Oct. 2021 Meyers prepped the Late Night monologue writers for the potential chill of an indifferent audience with a surprise inspection. Bethy Squires, Vulture, 9 Oct. 2021 The most horrifying of indifferent aggressions comes after Alma sneaks a pill to perfect her violin practice. Michael P. H. Stanley, National Review, 3 Oct. 2021 Sure, there would be the usual hyperbolic complaints, mainly from whiny YouTubers who base their entire identity on disliking Captain Marvel, but otherwise, the announcement would largely be met with an indifferent shrug. Dani Di Placido, Forbes, 27 Sep. 2021 Uncharacteristically for Everett, who is known for cerebral narrators, the novel surveys a wide cast from an indifferent third-person remove. Julian Lucas, The New Yorker, 20 Sep. 2021 Polls showed the governor was in serious jeopardy of being removed from office as late as July, before Elder become the GOP frontrunner, mostly because Republicans were energized and many Democratic and independent voters appeared indifferent. Phil Willon, Los Angeles Times, 17 Sep. 2021 Other, more indifferent viewers are happy to welcome the new delivery methods, depending on what’s most convenient for them. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, 14 Sep. 2021

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

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First Known Use of indifferent

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

History and Etymology for indifferent

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

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Time Traveler for indifferent

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

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Last Updated

18 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Indifferent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for indifferent


in·​dif·​fer·​ent | \ in-ˈdi-fə-rənt How to pronounce indifferent (audio) , -ˈdi-frənt \

Kids Definition of indifferent

1 : not interested or concerned about something She's indifferent about your problems.
2 : neither good nor bad an indifferent performance

Other Words from indifferent

indifferently adverb


in·​dif·​fer·​ent | \ in-ˈdif-ərnt, -ˈdif-(ə-)rent How to pronounce indifferent (audio) \

Medical Definition of indifferent

1 : having or exhibiting a lack of affect, concern, or care
2a : not differentiated indifferent tissues of the human body
b : capable of development in more than one direction especially : not yet embryologically determined

Other Words from indifferent

indifferently adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on indifferent

Nglish: Translation of indifferent for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of indifferent for Arabic Speakers


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