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Thread: Antisocial, what it really means.

  1. #1

    Default Antisocial, what it really means.

    I don't know why, but it REALLY pisses me off when people use the term antisocial incorrectly. And to inform all those who are unaware, I have made this thread.

    Antisocial does not mean unsociable, or "not social", like everyone seems to think it does. Calling someone antisocial means that you're telling them that they're harmful to others and/or society. Antisocial Personality Disorder is defined by the APA as "A pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood."

    End of Rant.

  2. #2


    While the clinical definition of antisocial may be that, it is not the only definition of antisocial.

    antisocial definition |

    1. unwilling or unable to associate in a normal or friendly way with other people: He's not antisocial, just shy.

    1. Shunning the society of others; not sociable.

  3. #3


    I don't see how that counteracts my argument. I don't acknowledge that or the American Heritage dictionary as real dictionaries, since they follow social trends in word usage e.g. they list the wrong definition of word because it is so widely misused in that fashion.

  4. #4

  5. #5


    I think you just proved his point. "Everyone", i.e. society, uses this word to mean unsociable or withdrawn. This societal definition is reflected in the dictionary.

    Remember that words work for us, not the other way around. If someone labels you "antisocial," you can immediately turn to them and ask what they mean. You may find that they meant to say that you keep to yourself a lot, not that you're an enemy to society. Removing the milder definition from this word will only bring confusion.

    To add, I hate the now-ingrained misgrammar of "the place needs cleaned." Nearly everybody around me says it. But I've learned to accept that people have certain ways of talking, so I don't get so irritated by it anymore. When you learn the intent of the speaker, you don't have to worry about the specific words.

  6. #6


    It's psychological word, and I'd figure that an association of psychologists would use the best definition. Plus, it may just have something to do with me being the son of a psychologist.

  7. #7

  8. #8


    As a linguistics geek, can I step in here. Words are fickle things. Their meanings change. They can have multiple, sometimes unrelated meanings. If a word is used to mean something by the majority of people, you can't just say that another meaning is what this word really means. Hypnotoad, you complain about dictionaries following social trends - linguistics is a social science. A word means what the people who use it mean it to mean.

    It is quite common for a technical word to have a different, though usually related, meaning when used by the general public. Chaotic or random are pretty much interchangeable in everyday speech, but from a scientific or mathematical perspective, these things have separate, very well defined meanings.

    A word doesn't always have one best definition. The person who uses it, the context and also general human instinct give us what the word is actually being meant to use. While the psychological definition is valid as that word would be used by psychologists, so equally is the general definition used by the general public.

    Words gain new meanings, they change in sound. The entire grammar of a language shifts. Language evolution is an apparently unstoppable force that has been in operation since language itself has existed. While people may fight against it, in the end it always comes through. So while you are correct that that is the psychological definition Hypnotoad, you are incorrect to say that is the correct definition.

  9. #9
    Butterfly Mage


    On a related note, what is the difference between someone being a psychopath and someone being a sociopath? There must be a difference, since there are two words that describe really not-nice people.

  10. #10


    Quote Originally Posted by HypnoToad View Post
    I don't see how that counteracts my argument. I don't acknowledge that or the American Heritage dictionary as real dictionaries, since they follow social trends in word usage e.g. they list the wrong definition of word because it is so widely misused in that fashion.
    I think you miss the point of a dictionary! If a word is used 'incorrectly' by so many people, then the meaning of the word changes, and the dictionary should reflect that.

    Take the word "sensible". Originally it meant "perceivable by the senses" (or something similar) but then people started using it to mean something alternate, "acting with good sense". Now there's two meanings... I don't think the dictionary people can argue that everybody is wrong, and they are right!
    Lexicographers are our bitch, we're not theirs!

    Lots of words have more precise meanings. I'm sure antisocial means something more precise, but so do lots of other philosophical words... people just nick already used words and make more precise meanings, or maybe "normal people" hear the term and mould it into an everyday word. I think the psychologists are going to have let this one go.

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