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.
    He was indifferent to the proposal, since it didn’t affect him, either way.
    • 1816, Jane Austen, Emma, Volume 2, Chapter 16,[1]
      “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.
    She responded with an indifferent shrug.
    • 1886, Thomas Hardy, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Chapter 25,[2]
      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, p. 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).
    The long distance and the indifferent roads made the journey impossible.
    The performance of Blue Jays has been indifferent this season.
    • 1749, Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, Dublin: John Smith, Volume 2, Book 10, Chapter 9, p. 275,[3]
      When Mrs. Honour had made her Report from the Landlord, Sophia, with much Difficulty, procured some indifferent Horses, which brought her to the Inn, where Jones had been confined rather by the Misfortune of meeting with a Surgeon, than by having met with a broken Head.
    • 1826, Walter Scott, Woodstock, Edinburgh: Archibald Constable, Volume I, Chapter 3, p. 84,[4]
      [] the state-rooms are unaired, and in indifferent order, since of late years.
    • 1965, Muriel Spark, The Mandelbaum Gate, Part 2, p. 252,[5]
      Suddenly Barbara remembered the party where she had first met Ruth Gardnor with her husband. The night of the dinner party. And the cello: it had been an indifferent performance.
  4. Having no preference or bias, being impartial.
    I am indifferent between the two plans.
    • 1713, Joseph Addison, Cato, a Tragedy, London: J. Tonson, Act V, Scene 1, p. 57,[6]
      [] Let Guilt or Fear
      Disturb Man’s Rest: Cato knows neither of ’em,
      Indiff’rent in his Choice to sleep or die.
    • 1933, H. G. Wells, The Shape of Things to Come, Book 3, Part 7,[7]
      The scientific worker aims at knowledge and is quite indifferent whether people like or dislike the knowledge he produces.
  5. Not making a difference; without significance or importance.
    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.
  6. (mechanics) Being in the state of neutral equilibrium.
  7. (obsolete) Not different, matching.

Related termsEdit



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.
    The face of the Moon appearing to me to be full of indifferent high mountains.

Usage notesEdit

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


Middle FrenchEdit


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

  1. indifferent; apathetic