I'm looking for a word that describes when someone shows a lack of understanding or empathy to someone due to a prejudice.

For example, if a man and a woman are having a conversation and the man makes a comment alluding to some sexist stereotype, the woman would suddenly feel disconnected from him because he is demonstrating that he isn't able to extend his empathy to women in the same way he does to other men. If someone has a prejudice, they see everyone from a certain group as being different from them and thus in some ways unrelatable.

I had always thought the word for this was "animosity", probably because it's often used in these contexts and it sounds like "anonymous" so it gave me the impression of not seeing someone for who they are. I've only recently discovered that it describes hostility, more than the passive disconnect I'm trying to describe. The word I'm looking for also has a connotation of patronising someone due to prejudiced views.

It also isn't necessarily about seeing someone as inferior to you, just treating someone as different and unrelatable. For example, if a woman said to a male friend that she thought all men were inherently sexist, the same word would be used to describe the feeling of disconnect from her not being able to see him in the same way she sees other women.

An example sentence would be:

When my white neighbour told me that he thought black people were naturally more aggressive, I felt a sense of (not quite animosity) that forever stunted our friendship.

  • 1
    Does the word apply to the prejudiced person or to the other person whose sentiments are offended? Please make that clear.
    – user405662
    Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 11:04
  • I've seen "dehumanization" used in research on this, referring to treating someone as less than human, although it seems to relate to some of the examples better than others, and it's not specific to prejudice and can be due to other causes. blog.aboutmybrain.com/prejudice-and-empathy pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30463431
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 11:26

2 Answers 2


I suggest:

alienation = the feeling that you have no connection with the people around you or that you are not part of a group:

"Depressed people frequently feel a sense of alienation from those around them."

the act of making someone stop supporting and agreeing with you:

Cambridge Dictionary

You might also like disenchantment in circumstances where you more suddenly realise the separation between your opinions:

disenchantment = a feeling of no longer believing in the value of something, especially having learned of the problems with it

Cambridge Dictionary

  • I think alienation is just the word I was looking for Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 11:25

I don't think the word you're looking for would apply to both the parties in question. Any such person who stereotypes a class or group along insular lines might be called bigoted and this abominable characteristic of theirs is called bigotry.

As regards the example sentence you've provided at the end of your question chagrin is the word.

A keen feeling of mental unease, as of annoyance or embarrassment, caused by failure, disappointment, or a disconcerting event:

To her chagrin, the party ended just as she arrived.

[American Heritage Dictionary]

You could this say—

When my white neighbour told me that he thought black people were naturally more aggressive, I felt chagrined to the point that our friendship was forever stunted.

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