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I am trying to learn the meaning of the word disdain and how it is used in a sentence. It means to dislike of someone or something with the feeling that it does not deserve your respect or consideration. So if I am practicing sentence writing with the word disdain, can I substitute the word refuse to check if the sentence makes sense?

For example: The worker disdained the new tactics of dealing with customers.

To make sure the sentence makes sense, I substitute refuse: The worker refused the new tactics of dealing with customers.

Is it ok to substitute "refuse"?

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4 Answers 4

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"The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. It's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning." (Mark Twain)

The connotations behind the two words in your usages could have a daylight of a difference between them.While there is nothing wrong with the sentences themselves (except that the full stop is conspicuously missing), the intended meaning could suffer for want of mot juste.

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  • So how would I use disdain in a sentence? I have been trying to work it out but it is a tough one.
    – Saim Ahmad
    Aug 12, 2020 at 20:20
  • If you're just trying to make a random sentence with "disdain", that one is perfectly fine.However, if you have to contextualize the sentence, say for instance, in a short story, there you cannot plug in a random word.Only one of these words would fit in.I hope I have made myself clear.
    – user392935
    Aug 13, 2020 at 3:03
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I would say the meaning has more to do with disapproval rather than refusal. I might disdain a new policy but not refuse to follow it. It can often carry a connotation of snootiness.

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Disdain, the noun, is close to 'contempt' in meaning. So the verb naturally has the same connotation.

Refuse is broader - you can refuse to do or take something for many reasons, not just out of disdain. Conversely, you can "disdain" something, but it doesn't necessarily mean you refuse it.

To be honest, I'd avoid using it altogether in the verb sense. It's quite uncommon these days - I can't actually recall when I last saw it in prose. Many years, at least. If I saw it now, unless it was in a character's "voice", it'd give the impression (to me, at least) of someone reaching very hard for over-elaborate, "fancy" language.

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Both your sentences make sense, but do not connote the same meaning to me.

Consider the following sentences:

  1. "My friend refused to have the pork dish because he was already full"
  2. "My friend refused to have the pork dish because he disdained eating the meat of pigs.'

In the context of the first sentence, it is quite possible that my friend does not hate pork, he may even like it, but his refusal is governed more by practicality rather than strong emotions against pork.

In the second sentence, imagine that I have a friend who regard pigs as unclean or outright filthy animals. His negative feelings towards eating pork is underlined by the word disdain here.

Also, you may disdain something but also not refuse to do it. Imagine that I am a male chauvinist who does not believe that men should be involved in purchasing groceries and my mom asks me to grab some tomatoes from the grocery shop, then I may proceed to "buy tomatoes disdainfully".

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