Basically the title. I want a word to describe wanting to not want. For example, if I wanted use this word in a sentence to say I don’t want to be materialistic:

I wish I could be more [insert word] with materialism because it’s too much work to keep getting stuff.

  • apathetic, zen, ...
    – Lawrence
    Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 6:17
  • 1
    I think your problem is trying to have "more" of a lack of something. It's a fundamentally confusing logical proposition. Why not just say "I wish I could be less materialistic"? Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 16:02
  • Detached, dispassionate? Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 18:13
  • How about "maniaphobia"?
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 18:38
  • How about “desireless”?
    – aesking
    Commented Feb 11, 2020 at 2:04

4 Answers 4


The word apathetic, already suggested in a comment, can be traced back to the Greek word for the Stoic ideal that incorporates what you have in mind. It can be used in the present-day English for those who pursue similar ideals, but only if the context prepares the readers/listeners to take it that way, for example, by explicitly referring to Stoicism. Without such a context, the word is likely to be understood by the present-day English speakers to stand for something highly undesirable, rather than an ideal to be pursued.

One device that is sometimes used to make it clear that one wishes to refer to the Stoic ideal, rather than to the apathy in the sense of the present-day psychology, is to use the transliteration of the original Greek term for the former: apatheia. One can thus say, for example, that one is pursuing apatheia in one’s life, and one will be understood, by the philosophically educated, to be pursuing some Stoicism-inspired ideal. The obvious disadvantage of this device is that only people with at least some philosophical education will ‘get’ it. It should also be noted that apatheia is a noun, and that it might be awkward to try to make out of it an adjective that would work well within English sentences.

Another theory that incorporates what you have in mind is Buddhism. The word buddhist can sometimes be heard in everyday English conversations in the loose sense that covers that outlook that you are seeking to name, without implying a serious commitment to Buddhism in all its details. If you use the word that way, you will probably be understood. You should, however, bear in mind that those who are seriously committed to Buddhism may disapprove of the word being used too loosely.

None of these terms, incidentally, works well with the phrase ‘with materialism’ in your sample sentence. You should probably say that you reject materialism (in the relevant sense) separately from saying what it is that you do accept and pursue.


The control of one's actions suggested by willing oneself to not want is restraint. Accordingly, someone who consistently refused desire would be restrained. Oxford English Dictionary, "restrained, adj.":

Kept under control; characterized by reserve or moderation.

Merriam-Webster, "Restrained":

: marked by restraint : not excessive or extravagant

Restraint involves keeping a desire under control, which in turn implies the metacognition that you not want (on a higher level) what you want (on a baser level). For example, I restrain myself from reaching for another cookie. Around the cookie jar, I practice restraint. Sometimes, I wish I were more restrained around the cookie jar.

Similarly, for your example:

I wish I could be more restrained with [respect to] materialism because it’s too much work to keep getting stuff.

Also, using a word that doesn't rely on a negative prefix helps avoid the stylistic awkwardness of saying you're "more un-something" rather than "less something."


Someone who is highly self-disciplined and avoids all forms of indulgence can be described as (an) ascetic. An ascetic resists desire in all its forms - it effectively describes an existence that is free from acting on want.

  • I’m trying to focus less on the extrinsic aspect and more on the intrinsic. For example there is a difference between not wanting to kill and not killing. Ascetic is more about resisting temptations, whereas I’m trying to say I want to feel less tempted
    – Ibby
    Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 21:52

First word that came to me was disinterested:

I wish I could be more disinterested with materialism ...

It is more idiomatic to use disinterested in, but it seems to work well in your context.

2 Having or feeling no interest in something.
‘her father was so disinterested in her progress that he only visited the school once’

  • What about 'detached'?
    – Ram Pillai
    Commented Mar 12, 2020 at 10:42

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