I've always thought that Short-sighted means that you fail to look far into the future when planning. I thought near-sighted meant that your focusing ability in your eyes becomes less powerful as you move further from the object you are looking at.

I noticed thesaurus.com has them as essentially meaning the same thing; multiple things.

What is the correct definitions of these phrases?

  • 2
    My personal definition/usage of these terms agrees with yours. I would never use "short-sighted" to describe someone who needs glasses for distance vision, and I wouldn't use "nearsighted" to describe someone who failed to plan ahead. I would, however, use the word "myopic" in both contexts.
    – Marthaª
    Nov 6, 2010 at 5:22

5 Answers 5


The NOAD reports that short-sighted is

  • the British term for nearsighted
  • the word meaning lacking imagination or foresight

Nearsighted is reported to mean unable to see things clearly unless they are relatively close to the eyes, owing to the focusing of rays of light by the eye at a point in front of the retina.

In American English, the words have two different meaning.

  • So if a British person confides to an American that they are short sighted, the American thinks they are admitting to a lack of ability to plan ahead? I never knew...
    – Spagirl
    Jul 27, 2016 at 11:03
  • 1
    Perhaps more to the point, if you call an American short-sighted, it will be taken as an insult. Mar 29, 2018 at 18:28

Considering that Myopia and the adjective myopic can be used to refer to both the Ophtamalogical condition as well as the mental condition I think that you can feel comfortable using these terms interchangeably.

  • Interesting take on it Nov 6, 2010 at 0:59
  • I agree. I always call myself short-sighted wrt my optical problems. Feb 8, 2011 at 13:30

According to my copy of the OED:
short-sighted adj. 1 having short sight. 2 lacking imagination or foresight.
near-sighted adj. esp. US = short-sighted.

  • agree, near-sighted sounds very american to me.
    – jk.
    Feb 8, 2011 at 13:30

If you look at dictionary.com's definitions (nearsighted, shortsighted ), they do pretty much mean the same thing. I think "shortsighted" is used slightly more often to mean "failing to plan," but they can both be used that way.


I (Irish) wouldn't use near-sighted at all. I'd use short-sighted in both contexts (and I'm short-sighted myself).

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