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Disinterested vs. Uninterested—Are They the Same?

    • Disinterested means “without a vested interest.”
    • Uninterested means “not showing interest.”

The words disinterested and uninterested are sometimes used as if they have the same meaning. But there is a difference, and to avoid confusion, you should be aware of what that difference is.

What does disinterested mean?

When someone doesn’t have a vested interest in a matter, or doesn’t have a horse in that race, we can say that this person is disinterested. To be disinterested means to be impartial, which explains why this word, in its traditional sense, is often used in legal or business contexts:

Is the judge disinterested regarding this case or does she need to recuse herself?

However, writers sometimes use disinterested when uninterested would be more accurate:

He seemed disinterested in what was going on around him.

But, to avoid confusion, it’s best to preserve the distinction between these two words.

Animated gif of a Labrador retriever looking uninterested as a tennis ball bounces past.

What does uninterested mean?

If someone is bored, doesn’t care about something, or isn’t showing an interest in something, we can use the word uninterested to describe them:

He seemed uninterested in what was going on around him.

Sheila was uninterested in learning math; she preferred social studies.


The directors who consider the bid must be disinterested and not receive a benefit from the transaction, and they must be governed by an overarching duty of care owed to the association.

Criticism, in this light, is neither a mode of revelation nor of disinterested judgment.

Unfortunately for City Hall’s exterminators, they also seemed totally uninterested in recently laid traps baited with poison.

But we’re comparatively uninterested in buying health and beauty products online, despite spending 18 percent more this November.

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