Mistrust vs. Distrust

  angbeenc  —  Grammar Tips

Sometimes, two words are so similar that even experienced writers have trouble remembering which is which. Distrust and mistrust are two such words. Their meanings are so similar that they are often substituted for one another. Careful writers, though, can make use of the shades of meaning between these two words to make their writing stronger and more precise.

In this post, I will compare mistrust vs. distrust. I will use each of these words in example sentences to demonstrate their proper use in context. I will also include a mnemonic device that is useful for choosing distrust or mistrust correctly.

Mistrust as verb:

The word mistrust is used as a verb in English language where it means to be suspicious of; have no confidence in.

She had no cause to mistrust him.

Mistrust as noun:

The word mistrust is also used as a noun in English language where it refers to lack of trust; suspicion.

The public mistrust of government is growing fast.

This withholding of trust is based on a feeling of unease, rather than an informed opinion. Many people mistrust strangers who approach them in public because it makes them uncomfortable.

Distrust as noun:

Distrust is used as a noun in English language where it means the feeling that someone or something cannot be relied upon.

The bartender’s distrust of crowd lead to a gruesome fight.

Distrust as verb:

Distrust is also sometimes used as a verb which means to doubt the honesty or reliability of; regard with suspicion.

Speculation remained that the Army distrusted the peace process.

Distrust is a withholding of trust based on evidence or informed opinion. Many people distrust salespeople working on commission, for instance, knowing that these salespeople personally benefit from their purchases. This distrust stems from knowledge about the motivations of other people. Additionally, some people distrust doctors because they make suggestions on tests and scans to be performed from which they personally benefit.


There’s plenty of reason why this community of ours – a wonderful community in many ways – should distrust the police. [Guardian]

So with the public either distrustful or afraid of the stock market, and market professionals generally looking for a rally failure, what can we expect now? [Forbes]

The profound skepticism shared by many Pakistanis is rooted in their deep distrust of the United States … [Los Angeles Times]

Blocking the Internet, meanwhile, can increase fear and mistrust because it cuts off access to accurate information. [Sydney Morning Herald]

They feel victimized, embittered, deeply mistrustful of every established institution except the military. [National Post]

Distrust or mistrust:

Mistrust and distrust are related words that refer to a lack of trust as both nouns and verbs. Mistrust refers to a lack of trust that is instinctual or based on a feeling of uneasiness. Distrust is based on evidence or informed opinion. Since distrust and disbelieve are synonyms that start the same way, you can use the prefix dis– as a reminder of this word’s meaning.


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