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Corruption of the adjective disinterest/disinteressed. The sense of lacking interest is likely from dis- +‎ interested.


  • IPA(key): /dɪˈsɪnt(ə)ɹɛstɪd/
  • (file)


disinterested (comparative more disinterested, superlative most disinterested)

  1. Having no stake or interest in the outcome, and no conflicts of interest; free of bias, impartial. [from 17th c.]
    • 1791, James Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson:
      Sir, you have a right to that kind of respect, and are arguing for yourself. I am supporting the principle, and am disinterested in doing it, as I have no such right.
    • 1919, W[illiam] Somerset Maugham, “chapter 1”, in The Moon and Sixpence, [New York, N.Y.]: Grosset & Dunlap Publishers [], →OCLC:
      With his disinterested passion for art, he had a real desire to call the attention of the wise to a talent which was in the highest degree original; [...]
    • 2011, Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature, Penguin, published 2012, page 220:
      People are better off abjuring violence, if everyone else agrees to do so, and vesting authority in a disinterested third party.
    • 2014 April 12, Michael Inwood, “Martin Heidegger: the philosopher who fell for Hitler [print version: Hitler's philosopher]”, in The Daily Telegraph (Review)[1], London, page R10:
      [P]hilosophers of the time [early 20th century] were primarily concerned with epistemology and the foundations of the sciences; they often spoke as if we were separated from the real world by a screen of "representations" or "sense-data"; they tended to regard our approach to the world as one of disinterested observation.
  2. (proscribed) Uninterested, lacking interest. [from 17th c.]
    • 1684, Contempl. State of Man I. x:
      How dis-interested are they in all Worldly matters, since they fling their Wealth and Riches into the Sea.
    • 1936, Djuna Barnes, Nightwood, Faber & Faber, published 2007, page 43:
      Robin took to wandering again, to intermittent travel from which she came back hours, days later, disinterested.
    • 1967, Tommy Frazer, The Sun (Baltimore), "A 'Doctor' Of Karate", March 27
      Those spotted are usually taught so slowly that they grow disinterested and quit.

Usage notes[edit]

  • The correctness of the use of this word with the meaning uninterested is disputed. Some reference works consider it acceptable,[1] while others do not.[2] The OED specifies that this is "Often regarded as a loose use."[3] According to Macmillan Dictionary, "Many people think that this use of the word is not correct".[4]



Derived terms[edit]