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  Tips for Writers by Brad Hyde (December 1, 2008)

Disinterested or Uninterested?

English provides two similar prefixes to denote opposite meaning: "un" and "dis." The former, "un," was the first one used in English; the later, "dis," came from Latin and can mean separation.

So, does "disinterested" have the same meaning as "uninterested"? In common usage, it may seem that way. However, "disinterest" denotes an impartial attitude, such as this usage: "The game's referee remained disinterested in the game, calling it fairly."

For "uninterested" we can say, "The referee's wife was uninterested in the outcome of the boring, drawn-out football match."

In writing, be sure to favour "uninterested" for meaning the opposite of "interested" and to reserve "disinterested" for its useful, though rarer, meaning.

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