English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I just recently came across the word dispreferred in a linguistic document. I have never heard the word used before, rather I generally hear something like "preferred something else" in everyday conversation. Is dispreferred a linguistics/language specific term or does it have more widespread usage in non-technical conversations? As I type the word dispreferred, I see a red underline indicating that I have entered a misspelled word.

share|improve this question
I've also never heard it before. My advice, if you can avoid using it, by all means do. – Mr Lister Dec 27 '12 at 20:49
The simple answer seems to be no it isn't. It's not in OED (Oxford English Dictionary). – spiceyokooko Dec 27 '12 at 20:59
Google Books shows that Dispreferred arose around 1975 and has been almost entirely a linguistics term except for a brief vogue in economics, sociology and public-policy studies in the 70s and 80s. – StoneyB Dec 27 '12 at 21:36
I prefer dispreferred to unpreferred. – MikeM Dec 27 '12 at 23:03
up vote 3 down vote accepted

It's not in my Merriam-Webster or dictionary.reference.com, and I've never heard of it.

LanguageLog has some citations for it, but the article seems to confirm, if anything, that it's linguists' jargon.

share|improve this answer

'Mainstream', No. 'Word', Yes.

It's more of a domain-specific term defined in linguistics, although it does seem to appear in general English writing in a few instances. [Of course some people will love (or hate) the heightened suspense or the "gambling thrill," more of which is possible in the multistage lottery, and will prefer (or dis- prefer) it to a simple lottery.]a

It also seems to appear in linguistics literature in its general English sense apart from reference by its DSL-definition. [If "preferred'V'dispreferred" refer not to tastes/desires of the participants but to the sequential practices and ... And how do these different practices for preferred and dispreferred responses help us understand an important aggregate] [b]

See definition and some discussion on disprefer on Wiktionary: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/disprefer

share|improve this answer

In the academic field of Conversation Analysis (CA) this is a specific term for describing a type of statement or turn in a conversation. If, as you describe, this is a document in the field of linguistics then dispreffered may be the only accurate word to use.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.