English Lesson: “Disinterested” vs. “Uninterested”

by Andrew Forrest

One of my?concerns here in Fox and Hedgehog land is language. Language matters, because language expresses and enables thought. The right words used in the right way can help us express?exactly what we want to express. One of our occasional features here on the Hedgeblog will be about the proper use of words; I want to help you avoid the mistake of using one word when you ought to use another. In our first installment, I’m talking about the words “uninterested” and “disinterested.” What’s the difference?


Today, people often use the word “disinterested” when what they really mean is “uninterested.” The two words should not be interchangeable: disinterest means something different than uninterest. Disinterest does not mean a?lack of interest or curiosity; rather, a disinterested party is one that is impartial, that has no stake or interest in the argument.

So, e.g., I am uninterested in the outcome of?The Bachelorette: i.e., I don’t care and I don’t want to care.

To cite another example: a judge in a courtroom should be disinterested but not uninterested.

Make sense?

Hillary Clinton and James Comey

FBI Director James Comey was clearly not uninterested in Hillary Clinton’s emails; a better question: was Director Comey disinterested?

See why language matters?



I’m not picking on the Democrats; I don’t know anything about indictments and security clearances and the like–the Clinton email example is just one picked from today’s headlines.




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1 comment

Paul Ditto July 6, 2016 - 8:10 am

I agree it is important to use the right words, if you are able to do so. But I think it is equally important that we try to accurately see what someone’s message is, even though they may use words incorrectly in trying to communicate their message. Often times I find that I cannot come up with just the right word in a spur of the moment conversation. So, I usually use the word that comes to mind, knowing it does not communicate exactly the message I want to get across. The problem is, when I cannot think of the exact word that will communicate my position on something, I seem doomed to often choose a word that exaggerates my opinion or takes my expression of my opinion to an extreme that I did not intend. Of does it? Regardless of that (or is it irregardless?), I think it is very important that we try to read or hear someone’s view or opinion accurately and not seize up a word or two that might not exactly express their view. Sometimes in our polarized world, when we read or hear someone’s view or opinion on something that we disagree on, we look for words that we can isolate from the perfectly clear message to paint them into a corner. My new “two word” standard through which I filter my approach is “be kind”.

Sorry, I realize I probably just went off on a tangent that has little if anything to do with your blog. I must have had too much coffee this morning (or too little sleep).


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