Close-minded vs. closed-minded

Closed-minded is the more logical spelling of the phrasal adjective meaning intolerant of others or unreceptive to new ideas. But close-minded is the more common spelling, and many dictionaries list it at least as a secondary form.

Closed-minded is logical because we wouldn’t say of an intolerant person that his mind is close, which would mean literally that his mind is near. Instead, we would say his mind is closed. Some dictionaries do list not open as one of the many adjectival definitions of close, but in actual 21st-century usage close usually gives way to closed for this sense. Still, logic rarely holds sway over English usage.


While close-minded has the edge, both forms are easily found in current news and blog writing—for example:

[T]hose who hold conservative political views are more likely to be closed-minded, conformist and resistant to change. [Washington Post]

After breaking parole, Jean is pursued by Javert, Russell Crowe’s unremittingly close-minded policeman. [NJ Today]

It is rather closed-minded to start wringing our hands at the lack of American gun control. [Telegraph]

What terrifies me is that my kids will come out of their schools as fearful, close-minded, ignorant ninnies. [Washington Times Communities]

A leader who comes from a Christian tradition … runs the risk of looking sectarian and closed-minded by hanging out with fellow believers. [Globe and Mail]

76 thoughts on “Close-minded vs. closed-minded”

      • Because closed-minded is not consistent with other forms (e.g. high-heeled, open-ended, open-minded, etc).

        • If someone is open-minded, then their mind is open. If someone is close/closed-minded, then their mind is closed, not close. In the case of open-minded, open is an adjective, not a verb, so likewise in the case of closed/close-mined, It would seem more logical to use the adjective closed.

        • Um, yes it is. In all the examples you list, the first word in the compound term is an adjective. Close is not an adjective; closed is.

          • Open is not an adjective. As a matter of fact, we could argue that “close” in “close-minded” is actually an adjective, because it describes the state of the “mind”, which is a noun. You can only know what part of speech a word belong to by what it does in a sentence/phrase.

          • Do you say “keep the door open” or “keep the door opened”? If you say the latter, you look like a retard.

          • Again, the part of a speech a word belongs to is often determined by the role it plays in a sentence. For instance, is “lord” a noun or a verb? You cannot tell.

            As a noun: lord is “a person who has authority or superiority”.

            As a verb: you can lord it over someone, i.e. “domineer over, act arrogantly toward”

  1. Hey, nice sucker punch to half your potential readership with those hyper-politicized quotes!

    • These are examples of the word used well in context. The content isn’t important. We take examples from many types of sources and certainly don’t use them to promote an ideological agenda. If you look through our site, you’ll see quotes from writers expressing all sorts of political views. We don’t discriminate when it comes to that. But if you’re truly offended, we’ll find some blander examples in our next revision.

      • But that’s a sore point with conservatives…like Fox News says it provides balanced news and everyone else is extreme…and close-minded. It’s a catch-22: “You are close-minded if you have a opinion contrary to mine.” And sometimes you get shot for have a different, but legal, opinion on abortion and women’s rights.

    • This is a poorly thought-out comment. Maybe one of the quotes can be fairly characterized as liberal. If you want my analysis, read on: 1) I’ll grant the first quote is liberal-leaning. Though purportedly based on some kind of research, I can easily imagine another pollster claiming the opposite. But it is hard to read the remaining quotes as liberal leaning. 2) This quote is merely an accurate description of a character from Victor Hugo’s novel “Les Miserable” (and numerous play, musical and film adaptations.) The fact that the Jaber character is “close-minded” (or perhaps “single-minded” is a better description) is integral to the storyline, but the story itself has nothing to do with modern liberal or conservative sensibilities. It merely demonstrates that the commenter’s education neglected what many consider to be the 19th century’s greatest novel. Perhaps the commenter just reacted to the juxtaposition of “close-minded” and “policeman” without reading the quote. Or perhaps he/she believes the novel’s “law vs. grace” theme is a liberal critique of strict constructionism in contemporary judicial interpretations (this is my literary reference/joke, which you may choose to interpret as liberal-bias if you wish.) 3) If you actually read this quote it is a conservative statement. Perhaps the commenter reacted to the mention of gun-control without actually thinking. 4) This quote expresses the fears of a parent about the inadequacy of public schools, something we should all agree on, even if we don’t agree on what we should so about it. 5) Sadly, the last quote is an accurate statement about current public perception of people who identify themselves as Christian. Countless polls clearly establish that the large majority of Americans do not go to church, and though many consider themselves ato be “spiritual” they do not consider themselves to be “religious.” I’m a Christian, but am extremely disheartened to acknowledge that most people view Christians as narrow-minded, backwards and hypocritical. The commenter probably reacted to the mere presence of the words “Christian” and “close- minded” in the same sentence without actually reading and thinking about what the writer was saying. Unfortunately, both conservatives and liberals are all too quick to jump to conclusions about media bias. Our society and nation would be much more civil and focused on solving its problem if we all understood that everybody, including journalists, possesses certain political biases, and accepted that it is our own responsibility to read critically the whole range of public opinion, judge the objectivity or bias of the writer’s words, and form our own positions as objectively as possible.

    • If the shoe fits…or perhaps I should say, if one’s perception of the
      shoe fits…but there is [not scientific] evidence: I Googled
      close-minded and the other three variants followed by “conservatives”
      then “liberals”, and with “_____ liberals”, Google found an
      average of about 400,000 fewer results. But that makes sense, one
      characteristic of “liberal” is acceptance and understanding of multiple
      points of view. The Greeks cherished discourse on philosophy and
      science and politics over 2000 years ago, and enjoyed different ideas
      and ideologies in the spirit of learning and increasing knowledge.
      Cicero and Epicurean followers had very different ideas about life, but
      welcomed lively discussions on the subject. Liberalism was rampant! “My way or the highway” would probably get you a ticket out of town back then–on a dirt path.

  2. How interesting that it seems the more prestigious papers used the term “close-minded” whereas the more low brow papers use the more illogical term.

        • How many times will you add “ed” to a word to make it past tense or present perfect? “Close-minded” is considered a single word by reason of the hyphen.

          • You would be right if the word “close” were standing alone. But when hyphenated with “minded” it cannot be considered alone anymore.
            “close-minded” is a single word. The added “ed” at the end of “mind” has turned it into a present perfect word. Got it?

          • “Close” needs to be in the past as well. Closed-minded, not close-minded. Putting a verb in the past perfect makes it an adjective as well. “Close” is either the infinitive form of the verb, or the adjective meaning “near.” For it to mean the opposite of open, it must be “closed.” Closed-minded.

          • Would this be applicable to “open-minded” as well, so that wwe now have to write “opened-minded”? Or other similarly hyphenated words such as “big-mouthed”, “well-oiled”, “clear-minded”, etc? Or it is unique to “close-minded”?
            We understand that rules of grammar are not consistent. As the other folks have argued however, logicality of an expression does not always determine grammatical accuracy. Close-minded cannot be equated to “near-minded”, because the latter does not exist, and makes no sense whatsoever.

          • The diff there is “open” is a rare verb whose adjectival form is the same as the infinitive. To make “close” an adjective, “d” is needed. Up with the D! What can I say, I loves the D.

          • I finally got your argument. I am not sure you are right though, but you sounded convincing this time. Thanks.

  3. Interesting piece, and I agree with your conclusion. I’m unfamiliar with the etymology of “closed (or close)-minded,” but I’d assume that the ‘d’ in “closed” gradually eroded away similar to the ‘d’ in “iced-cream” for the sake of speed and convenience. It’s also true that idiomatic expressions are often illogical.

    • Actually, this is the reverse. The original term is “close” (adjective) – rhymes with dose. As in close quarters, meaning narrow or confined. So, literally, the term was original synonymous with narrow-minded. This usage is attested from 1818.

      Closed-minded shows up in the late 19th, as a mishearing of close-minded, most likely. See also: “You’ve got another think coming” eroding to “you’ve got another thing coming.”

  4. I never hear people saying close(near)-minded. It’s always pronounced close(to shut)-minded. They’re just clipping the D off closed-minded.

  5. Closed-minded makes sense. If your mind is open, you are open-minded, and if your mind is closed, you are closed-minded, right?

    • Actually if open-minded is correct, then close-minded should be correct too. Else, for consistency’s sake, you must write opened-minded and closed-minded, and that ain’t right.

      • “Open” is the term one uses in the adjective form, as is “closed,” as in the sentence, “He kept his window open, but his door closed.” You can keep your mind open, or you can keep your mind closed. Therefore, it is perfectly consistent to say “open-minded” and “closed-minded.”

  6. The root is from the status of being closed, shut, or otherwise unreceptive. Syntactically speaking, it should be “closed”, as could be argued for /iced/ cream. It’s a pronunciation adjustment trying to edge its way into spelling syntax.

    • But it’s close rhymes with dose, the adjective. Meaning “narrow” or “confined.”

        • Boom.

          The other issue is tense agreement; the addition should be in agreement, tense-wise. In this case, the tense will be similar to that of “It is done.” Closed-minded makes more sense, again, because “closed” is a “finished-state” – an absolute, intransitive term. similar to “null-minded”, “open-minded”, “vacant-minded”, and “like-minded”. Null is a state of nothingness or inexistence (implying death), open is a state of being open and receptive, vacant is a state of being empty (implying stupidity or death), and like is a state of being similar (alike in all of our overall intents – to clarify this term once-and-for-all).

          Sorry for not knowing a bunch of fancy terms; all my education is from only high school. =L

          • You are correct and should have gone to college! Here’s another reason why: “Please open your mind. Thank you, your mind is now open.” ::
            “Please close your mind. Thank you, your mind is now [close or closed].” Regarding apples and oranges…”You can put fruits in the same
            basket, but you can’t always make them equate.” -Ice Ed Thatt

          • Eh, college was a bit of a gamble; it doesn’t guarantee me a job when I leave college. I’m more of a programmer, but even still, there’s a lot of possibilities still open.

    • Iced cream are TWO words; “close-minded” is ONE word because they are joined with a hyphen. Got it?

      • 1) First part should be “Iced cream is two words”
        2) “Iced cream” is incomparable to “closed minded”, as “iced” is both a state AND a past-tense verb, and in the context of “iced cream”, both apply simultaneously – thus why it’s separated to two words. However, in “closed-minded”, we’re strictly referring to the state of being closed, thus permitting (and preferring) hyphenated use.
        3) …Wow, old argument is old. xD

          • Aren’t “up” and “out” adjectives? Once I have that answer, I think I can answer this a bit more properly – as I said in a different reply, I avoided college, so I don’t get the luxury (silver lining, I also don’t get the headache) of analyzing the English language so deeply as to pick apart semantic errors.

  7. I think I’ll trust Merriam-Webster:
    “closed–minded – adjective – obstinately resistant to argument or to unfamiliar or unwelcome ideas”

  8. We would say his “mind is narrow” though, and since the original sense of the adjective close is narrow, tight, confined (eg. close quarters), we came up with close-minded.

    • We would also say that he’s open to new thoughts, hence “open-minded.” The opposite of the verb “to open” is “to close,” but the opposite of the adjective “open” is “closed,” not “close,” hence “closed-minded.” Case close.

      • I’m surprised no one really has stumbled upon the real reason why the “ed” is omitted…say them both, focus on the position of your tongue in your mouth, your lips, and the position of your jaw.

        It is REALLY hard to smoothly say “closed-minded.” “Close-minded” flows much better physically, hence why it is often pronounced this way. There is quite a few parts to move around to get from the “d” sound at the end of closed to position your mouth to say the “m” in “minded.”

        I’m sure someone will have a clever retort. You need not bother; spent many linguistic classes in college years ago studying phonetics and these “mouth” exercises. And to think I told Professor Stroik that I’d never use this; clearly comments sections weren’t popular in 1998 yet.

        • Too bad you never learned to do any research in college Matt. How could the “ed” sound be omitted when “close-minded” was in use a full 100 years before “closed-minded”? By the way that is both in print and spoken aloud.

          • Lexicographic evolution, as in species evolution, in a short time frame, could, by natural selection, go backwards and survive for some time. Maybe “close-” devolved into “closed-“! (haha) (btw devolve evolved from evolve…wikipedia likes the word, so I’m going to start using it…I’m not closed-minded to such things)

  9. I would argue for the uses in the WaPo, Telegraph, & Globe and Mail, which are larger & mostly follow the AP style book, rather than the smaller sites & blogs. Perhaps that’s just because they agree with my idea of the correct usage, though…

    • …And I would agree with Merriam-Webster, and Oxford English Dictionary over MacMillan Dictionary.

  10. 1. what is logical is not necessarily correct: common use and authority (well known authors, e.g.) make ‘correct’ language.
    2. closed-minded is not always logical as closed means ‘made close’ or ‘shut’ implying outside agency, hence closed-circuit, closed in, closed out, closed-captioning, closed-loop, closed society, etc. Therefore, closed-minded would be a person who ought to be open-minded but shuts his mind intentionally.
    3. OED does not have an entry for closed-minded, only for close-minded citing, among others, Henry Miller as authority.

  11. As the Oxford Dictionary does not recognize closed-minded, then close-minded is grammatically correct. After all, if one wishes to examine correct English, it is probably best to consult the inventors of the language. Many terms and spellings have been altered in U.S. English. As a Canadian, I have colours, neighbours, a paediatrician and encyclopaedias. These are the correct spellings of these words. :)

    • This all is very simple. Oxford Dictionary are closed-minded until they stop being so by becoming open-minded about the term “closed-minded.” I hasten to point out that “closed” is the opposite of “open”: The door is open, the door is closed. The mind is open, the mind is closed.

  12. So I would be interested to get a consensus on this. Are most people here closed-minded in that they will not change their thoughts on the usage of “ed”, or are they close-minded in that they think very similar? Their thinking is close to the same?

  13. What I always like to do to check things like this is a “quoted” GOOGLE search.
    My informal poll turned up 626,000 hits for “close-minded” and 693,000 hits for “closed-minded”….
    So in a close one…”closed-minded” wins!

  14. Frankly I prefer Narrow minded or tunnel visioned,like looking at the world through a toilet paper tube.

  15. I’d like to understand why two of the examples take a hit at Christians and conservatives. There are plenty of ways of giving an example of the word closed-minded without propaganda. Thanks.

  16. Closed-minded? Did American’s do this? If one was dead or in a coma they may be closed-minded. Haha! Close-minded is older and expresses rigid opinions or a narrow outlook. Such as many people have about this issue. :) You can certainly say someone has a closed mind, therefore they are close-minded. However, the use of closed-minded is by far the more common of the two these days. Finally, I was always taught, that the English language is not set in stone. It can change, but that doesn’t mean we all have to like it. lol

  17. The door is open, the door is closed. We speak of an open-door policy and a closed-door policy; I don’t think anyone uses “close-door policy”. The mind is open, the mind is closed. Intuitively I reach for open-minded and closed-minded.

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