What does it mean "to be detached to something"? I have heard this word only with "from", is it the same meaning or the opposite ? The verb was used in the context : An important key element here is to become detached to the outcome. While the tide is coming in you don’t have to worry about the details. Once the tide comes in, the details will always take care of themselves...

  • 1
    Looks like a mistake to me. Have you found this usage anywhere else? Jul 24, 2018 at 7:25
  • No, I have looked it up in some dictionaries on the Internet, but they give only examples with "detached from"
    – bugsy2
    Jul 24, 2018 at 7:34
  • @PhilMJones See my answer. That sense of detached is rather philosophical and so appears in (mostly Oriental) religion and philosophy.
    – Kris
    Jul 24, 2018 at 8:08

4 Answers 4


According to Oxford Dictionaries, detached to is a military term, meaning:

(of a group of soldiers or ships) be sent on a separate mission.

An example:

‘our crew were detached to Tabuk for the exercise’

There are some examples of detached to being used in books, most of which are either militaristic in nature or deals with programming terms. To be more specific, the phrase detached to the outcome was included verbatim in exactly three books, compared to the ubiquitous detached from the outcome, according to Google.

This leads me to believe that the usage in your example is, in fact, erroneous.

  • Yes, but in the given context, that meaning will not fit.
    – Kris
    Jul 24, 2018 at 8:17
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    Yes, which is why I concluded the usage of the word to be an error by the author, or whoever uttered the phrase.
    – VTH
    Jul 24, 2018 at 8:21
  • No, there's no error. Please see my answer.
    – Kris
    Jul 24, 2018 at 8:22
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    As unoriginal as it is, my opinion of this matter echoes that of @JamesRandom. I will reiterate: the phrase "detached to the outcome" appears exactly three times in Google Books. See the link I provided in my answer. I have also did some additional digging and found that most books use "detached from", not "to", further suggesting that the usage is just a mere oddity at best. I shall not be answering to any more of your questions, since you don't seem to be very open to differing opinions.
    – VTH
    Jul 24, 2018 at 8:47
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    @Kris You criticise others for not doing the "right" sort of research and yet you have not produced a single citation for "detached to". (Nor for it being "in (mostly Oriental) religion and philosophy".)
    – user184130
    Jul 24, 2018 at 15:40

As noted in other comments, this looks like a mistake to me so I looked on Google Ngrams for detached to it, detached about it (the latter seeming more natural to me in this context).

So, to is less common than about but not completely unknown. Which I guess is consistent with some people here thinking it is natural. (Although some of the to senses were the military meaning of "send to".)

Replacing it with him or her gave more even results for to and about (with to slightly ahead for him - not sure what the significance, if any, of that is).

I also tried detached from it in the above search. It was even more common, but this is probably dominated by the more literal, physical senses of the word.

I wanted a better search term to highlight this specific meaning. So I tried emotionally detached ... it and this found zero references for either to or about, only from. (Using "psychologically" found zero matches for any of them.)


Detached, in a sense that the OP may not have thought of. In the given sentence, it means not having a feeling of attachment: "I am detached towards worldly pleasures." See also: the phrase cold and detached.

"An important key element here is to become detached to the outcome."
"… to not have any feelings about what would be the the outcome."

Let me provide some references for the definition and usage of the word.
detached (ODO)

2 Aloof and objective.
‘he is a detached observer of his own actions’

Btw, there's also another meaning of detached ("deployed") where it can be used with the preposition to: "(soldiers) to be deployed (to a certain site)" i.e., "posted to".

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    But it doesn't use "to" even for the "aloof" sense. Where is your first example sentence from? Googling it, it appears to be from a self-published book, so I wouldn't necessarily take it as a very credible source. I would say that "detached to" is an error or, at best, non-standard.
    – user184130
    Jul 24, 2018 at 8:10
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    "He is a detached observer towards his own actions" sounds just as odd as "to" if not more so. We have two examples of "informal" writing that use "to" and no good references in favour of it. It looks like an error.
    – user184130
    Jul 24, 2018 at 8:23
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    I found one other usage of "detached to" in an online forum (so, again, a not very credible source). They used "detached to" in the tile of the thread, but then used "detached from" consistently everywhere else. highexistence.com/topic/…
    – user184130
    Jul 24, 2018 at 8:27
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    then please provide a credible source for "detached to" because I am not able to find one.
    – user184130
    Jul 24, 2018 at 8:30
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    If it used in the meaning such as 'deployed' it actually makes sense if you read the next sentence but I don't think it could be an error of any kind because the author is an American and a Phd,, so I guess he used it as you say in a 'philosophical' sense. Thank you, now got it .
    – bugsy2
    Jul 24, 2018 at 8:49

I will second vth's answer.

I found the source: https://www.slideshare.net/RonSedlak/the-trust-factor-83967264

The OP has quoted precisely but the original author has used the phrase "detached to" incorrectly. The original author's work speaks of abandoning attention of outcome as to not have emotive attachment, which detracts from focus to perform.

"Detached to" infers that something was apart of a larger group, and is currently detached to engage elsewhere.

"Detached from" states that something is no longer apart of a larger group.

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