What is the difference between ignorant and uninformed? In ordinary usage, is one considered a put down and the other considered a statement of fact? If so, why? Am I ignorant or simply uninformed?

  • Not an answer as such, but I think it's worth mentioning that the word ignorant has a rather different meaning in Scotland and parts of the Caribbean, to that in the rest of the English-speaking world. – user11752 Apr 2 '12 at 13:14
  • @Mark And that meaning is ... ? – Jay Apr 2 '12 at 17:35
  • I'm not sure of a precise definition, but it seems to be something like "arrogantly stupid", as opposed to merely uninformed. – user11752 Apr 2 '12 at 17:44
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    In southern U.S. dialects, "ignernt" (ignorant) is used to mean either unintelligent or stupid, "Well that's just ignert!" "Ignorant" has a stronger derogatory connotation than "uninformed". – TecBrat Jun 3 '12 at 17:43
  • @MarkBannister. There's a similar usage in Ireland. Here, ignorant seems to mean "belligerent" as much as anything else. – TRiG Oct 9 '14 at 18:44

People often contrast "stupid" from "ignorant". "Stupid" means a lack of intelligence, an inability to comprehend information. "Ignorant" means a lack of information.

"Uninformed" means pretty much the same thing as "ignorant". It has a milder tone, but that's about the only difference.


Ignorant means the person in question did not bother to "get informed". Being uninformed can have several causes, not necessarily that of not showing concern.

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    Ignorant implies a lack of sophistication and education. Uninformed doesn't necessarily mean you are uneducated; you just haven't received a particular piece of information yet. – JLG Apr 2 '12 at 3:11
  • That's can't be right, because children are ignorant, but it's not a question as to whether they are bothering or not. – vy32 Apr 2 '12 at 3:23
  • @vy32 That's exactly what it is. – Milo Wielondek Apr 2 '12 at 13:50

Well, I hate to disagree with @Milosz, but negativity attaches to both adjectives. Calling someone uninformed is simply a politer way of calling them ignorant.

If you're looking for a more neutral adjective, try unaware.

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    Can we get a definitive reference, rather than just some opinions? – vy32 Apr 2 '12 at 3:23
  • @vy32 Although I understand your frustration, I'm afraid a definitive reference wouldn't be of much help, even if one was to be found. This question seems to be more about individuals' personal opinion rather than any conventions (or lack of those), as illustrated by the equal distribution of votes amongst seemingly contrasting answers. – Milo Wielondek Apr 3 '12 at 10:48
  • As to @Robusto's answer, whilst it is common to say something along the lines of "I was not wrong, I was uninformed" or "A well-intentioned but uninformed advice", paraphrasing those sentences using ignorant would result in a significant difference in connotation. – Milo Wielondek Apr 3 '12 at 10:48
  • As with many such terms, a lot depends on how you say it. Like if you say, "No, wait, Sally, I think you are just uninformed about how to enter data into the new computer system," that would probably be understood as more explanation than criticism. But if you say, "I can't believe somebody could be as ignorant as you! Do you need help dressing yourself?!" that would probably be taken as an insult. – Jay Aug 7 '12 at 20:22
  • Disagree. Context can attach negativity to practically any word, but no negativity at all conventionally attaches to uninformed as the word in and of itself is used by good writers, any more than negativity conventionally attaches to forgotten or short. The word in this sense is not at all like thankless or wicked, among others, to which negativity does attach even when no specific context is supplied. – thb Jul 13 '13 at 1:34

As can be seen from the form of the word, ‘ignorant’, strictly speaking, means ‘having ignorance, ignoring the facts, not caring’. However, as is often the case, people use the word loosely to suggest lack of knowledge. It is certainly pejorative. It can also imply lack of social grace, particularly in the expression ‘pig ignorant’.

I would say ‘uninformed’ was designed to be emotionally neutral, a mere statement of fact that someone is not in full possession of the facts. However, the manner of delivery of the word can convey contempt. If a governmental policy etc. is described as uninformed, it implies that not enough trouble has been taken to ascertain the facts.

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    @BarryBown: No, you have it backwards. You are carrying the current connotation of ignore onto ignorant. Actually, the primary sense of ignorare in Latin and ignorer in French (i.e. the earlier senses) is simply to not know. The English sense of to willfully choose to "not know" is more recent. – ThePopMachine Jul 2 '12 at 4:54
  • @ThePopMachine: Not only is the English sense of to willfully choose to "not know" more recent, it is also seldom attested by good writers, who (as you have observed), know what ignorare actually means. By this I mean no offense to the answerer, who of course is more or less right about the words' colloquial usage in some places. – thb Jul 13 '13 at 1:40
  • @thb Modern dictionaries list the 'not know' sense of 'ignore' as archaic, or simply only list the meaning you say is rarely used by good writers. Online Oxford mentions the original sense in the etymology, but does not list it. – Angelos May 31 '16 at 14:14

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