Distain vs Disdain

distain vs disdain1

1. Easily Confused Words: Distain vs. Disdain


Distain (pronounced “dihs-tane”) is a verb. It means to soil one’s clothes, furniture, or another surface. [Yes, this is one of those odd times in English where “stain” and “distain” mean basically the same thing.]

Figuratively, distain could be used to indicate damaging something more abstract, like a reputation or a public persona.


Disdain (pronounced “dihs-dane”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a verb, it means showing contempt or extreme dislike of others, or behaving in snobbish, unresponsive way, as if another person isn’t worthy of engaging with or responding to in any fashion.
  • As a noun, it means an attitude of extreme dislike, contempt that’s reflected in a person’s speech or behavior towards someone or something else. In this year’s election cycle (2016), we’ve seen a whole lot of disdain on display from presidential candidates, surrogates, and political action committees (PACs).