In the U.S., we seemingly prefer the former to the latter. However, I was sitting with my friends when one of them stated that he was "disorientated" while we were playing a video game.

My theory, at the time, was that he made the language connection between a "youtube game commentator" and "disoriented", resulting in a mash-up of the two words. Due to the rise of usage in the word "commentator", at least in the U.S., it made plenty of sense.

However, I just did some look-up this morning, out of curiosity, and it seems that the British prefer the latter to the former. It seemed a bit odd to me, so I asked some acquaintances in an SO Chat Room, and an interesting proposal was made.

Perhaps "Disoriented" is more of an adjective, where "Disorientated" is more appropriately a verb.

An example would be:

  • Adjective: He became disoriented in the forest.
  • Verb: He disorientated himself in the forest.



It is British English.

If I'm disoriented them I'm unsure which way is up; I might feel sick and dizzy. Associations similar to vertigo. I could get disoriented flying an aircraft in thick fog or scuba diving in low visibility. Playing a computer game I could become disoriented, certainly, if the images are moving too fast for my brain to make sense of them properly.

If I'm disorientated then I'm simply lost. I'm feeling ok but I don't know where I am in relation to my surroundings. If I'm metaphorically disorientated then I'm confused, e.g. I might be disorientated by a new job.

If I'm disoriented then I am spatially disorientated; I have lost spacial orientation.

Spatial disorientation, the inability of a person to determine his true body position, motion, and altitude relative to the earth or his surroundings. Both airplane pilots and underwater divers encounter the phenomenon.


So disorientated has more of a topographical implication whereas disoriented is more sensory.

  • It seems odd to have different meanings for what's essentially the same word.
    – ndugger
    Oct 27 '14 at 13:06
  • They're sometimes just used as synonyms.
    – A E
    Oct 27 '14 at 13:16
  • 1
    For the entry at disorient (v.tr), the Concise Oxford Dictionary notes concisely '= disorientate. The COD lexicographers clearly see no difference in meaning. The COD does not have entries for an adjective.
    – tunny
    Oct 27 '14 at 13:18
  • OK, they're often used as synonyms. ;)
    – A E
    Oct 27 '14 at 14:15
  • 1
    I'd go for the synonyms option, AmE and BrE respectively. I don't know whether the Americans orient something, but the British would orientate it.
    – DavidR
    Oct 27 '14 at 16:02

If disoriented is a past participle, then one must assume that the infinitive, "to disorient" exists. Afaik it doesn't, so disorientated seems more probable.

  • No, that doesn’t follow. The -ed suffix is used to make adjectives from nouns not just from verbs. Consider horn-rimmed glasses: there is no such verb as to horn-rim something.
    – tchrist
    Oct 27 '14 at 15:58
  • Compound adjectives are often formed from false participles like you "horn-rimmed", but the use of such false participles is usually limited to forming compound adjectives, which is, however, not the case in this example.
    – Martin
    Oct 27 '14 at 20:47
  • First, they are not “false participles”. They are merely adjectives formed from nouns instead from verbs. No participles are involved, real or false. Kindly read the OED’s entry for the -ed² suffix. It gives examples like horned, ringed, toothed, booted, wooded, moneyed, cultured, diseased, jaundiced, bigoted, crabbed, dogged — amongst others. Notice how not one of those is a compound (read: multiword) adjective, so that isn’t true either. It is, however, now impossible to tell those formed from nouns apart from those that had been formed from verb now lost to us.
    – tchrist
    Oct 27 '14 at 23:54

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