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From Old French indifferent, from Latin indifferens.


  • IPA(key): /ɪnˈdɪf.ɹənt/, /ɪnˈdɪf.ə.ɹənt/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: in‧dif‧fer‧ent


indifferent (comparative more indifferent, superlative most indifferent)

  1. Ambivalent; unconcerned; uninterested, apathetic.
    Synonyms: insouciant, nonchalant; see also Thesaurus:apathetic
    He was indifferent to the proposal, since it didn’t affect him, either way.
    • 1815 December (indicated as 1816), [Jane Austen], chapter 16, in Emma: [], volume (please specify |volume=I, II or III), London: [] [Charles Roworth and James Moyes] for John Murray, OCLC 1708336:
      “I must not hope to be ever situated as you are, in the midst of every dearest connexion, and therefore I cannot expect that simply growing older should make me indifferent about letters.”
      Indifferent! Oh! no—I never conceived you could become indifferent. Letters are no matter of indifference; they are generally a very positive curse.”
    • 1933 January 9, George Orwell [pseudonym; Eric Arthur Blair], chapter 3, in Down and Out in Paris and London, London: Victor Gollancz [], OCLC 2603818:
      When you have a hundred francs in the world you are liable to the most craven panics. When you have only three francs you are quite indifferent; for three francs will feed you till tomorrow, and you cannot think further than that. You are bored, but you are not afraid.
  2. Indicating or reflecting a lack of concern or care.
    Synonyms: laid-back, pococurante; see also Thesaurus:carefree
    She responded with an indifferent shrug.
    • 1886, Thomas Hardy, “Chapter 25”, in The Mayor of Casterbridge[1]:
      Donald appeared not to see her at all, and answered her wise little remarks with curtly indifferent monosyllables []
    • 1953, James Baldwin, “Gabriel’s Prayer”, in Go Tell It on the Mountain (A Laurel Book), New York, N.Y.: Dell Publishing Co., published December 1985, →ISBN, part 2 (The Prayers of the Saints), pages 122–123:
      Then she shrugged, the mildest, most indifferent gesture he had ever seen, and smiled.
    • 1990, J. M. Coetzee, Age of Iron, London: Secker & Warburg, page 33:
      ‘Wonderful, Florence,’ I said, producing the ritual phrases: ‘I don’t know what I would do without you.’ But of course I do know. I would sink into the indifferent squalor of old age.
  3. Mediocre (usually used negatively in modern usage).
    Synonyms: lackluster, ordinary; see also Thesaurus:mediocre
    The long distance and the indifferent roads made the journey impossible.
    The performance of Blue Jays has been indifferent this season.
  4. Having no preference.
    I am indifferent between the two plans.
  5. Unbiased, impartial, judging fairly.
    Synonyms: detached, equitable, evenhanded, fairhanded, neutral, open-minded
  6. Not making a difference; without significance or importance.
    Synonyms: negligible, unimportant; see also Thesaurus:insignificant
    Even if one appliance consumes an indifferent amount of energy when left on stand-by overnight, together they can represent 10% of the electricity demand of a household.
  7. (mechanics) Being in the state of neutral equilibrium.
  8. (obsolete) Not different, matching.
    Synonyms: identical, undifferentiated; see also Thesaurus:identical

Related terms[edit]



indifferent (plural indifferents)

  1. A person who is indifferent or apathetic.



  1. (obsolete) To some extent, in some degree (intermediate between very and not at all); moderately, tolerably, fairly.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:moderately
    The face of the Moon appearing to me to be full of indifferent high mountains.
  2. (obsolete) Without distinction or preference for some over others.
    • 1593, anonymous, The Life and Death of Iacke Straw [], Act III:
      Newton. My Maſters, you that be the chiefeſt of the rout,
      The King intreats you kindly here by me,
      To come and ſpeake with him a word or two.
      Iacke Straw. Sirra, if the King would any thinge with vs,
      Tell him the way is indifferent to meete vs.
      Newton. You are too many to be talkt with all, []

Usage notes[edit]

  • Now obsolete, but very common c. 1600-1730.


Middle French[edit]


indifferent m (feminine singular indifferente, masculine plural indifferents, feminine plural indifferentes)

  1. indifferent; apathetic