Is an "asocial" guy hostile and destructive or is he just unwilling to interact and avoiding company of others?

Is antisocial the same thing? The dictionary says it means opposing established thoughts and laws and rules. So can it be used describe actions that are detrimental or harmful or should I use "asocial?"

Why are they different at places and why are they alike at some?

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    How does the dictionary define asocial? Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 12:37
  • Maybe it's just me, but I cannot help associating the term "asocial" with the German "asozial" and the black triangles worn in the death camps by mental patients, leftists, and other supposed social deviants. Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 14:20

1 Answer 1


Asocial and antisocial are distinct in etymology, and you're correct that antisocial has a notion of willing to oppose society, while etymologically, asocial is merely "cut" from the society, "Avoiding social interaction" says Oxford dictionary, but this goes to the extent of being "inconsiderate of or hostile to others": the gap with antisocial is slender, maybe not just in semantics but also in the perception of these behaviours.

In order to get the full landscape, one should also consider the words "unsociable" and even "unsocial". On these plus antisocial, the Oxford dictionary writes:

There is some overlap in the use of the adjectives unsociable, unsocial, and antisocial, but they also have distinct core meanings. Generally speaking, unsociable means ‘not enjoying the company of others’, as in ‘Terry was grumpy and unsociable’. Antisocial means ‘contrary to the laws and customs of a society’, as in ‘aggressive and antisocial behaviour’. Unsocial is usually only used to describe hours ‘falling outside the normal working day’, as in ‘employees were expected to work unsocial hours’.


Unsociable is probably to be used rather than asocial to describe a behaviour which is not judged harmful to society in itself.

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