Commonly Confused Words: Uninterested, Disinterested

February 2, 2017

People often use uninterested and disinterested interchangeably to mean “bored” or “unconcerned” or “not interested.” But these words are not synonyms. Using the wrong word can completely change your intended meaning, and you can’t be having that.

Their Meanings

Uninterested: bored, not concerned, not interested

Disinterested: impartial, unbiased, not having a stake in something

Their Usage And Some Examples


✔  I didn’t want to watch the movie because I was uninterested in romantic comedies.
The speaker finds romantic comedies boring. “Uninterested” can be swapped with “not interested.”

????  I worked hard to be an uninterested judge for my class’s political debate.
The speaker should definitely be interested in the debate if they’re a judge.


✔  I worked hard to be a disinterested judge for my class’s political debate.
Yes, an impartial or unbiased judge is important.

????  I didn’t want to go to Disney World because I was disinterested in the amusement park’s ambiance.
—If the speaker was impartial or unbiased toward Disney World, they wouldn’t care about going or not going.

Their Pasts

The etymologies of these two words are quite interesting and show how strange language can be. Essentially, their meanings were switched:

Uninterested meant “unbiased.”

Disinterested meant “unconcerned.”

Basically, these words usurped each other’s original meaning. The evolution of language doesn’t always make sense, but it is interesting.

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