• Disconnect is traditionally a verb meaning to sever or interrupt a connection, but in recent years a noun sense has gained prominence. The noun refers to (1) an inability to mentally reconcile two or more things, (2) an inability for two or more parties to agree or to understand each other, or (3), more generally, a disparity or gap. Also, it’s sometimes simply short for disconnection.


    The noun disconnect is an early 20th-century development, though it was rare until around 1980. In this century it is inescapable. Why so many 21st-century writers resist the longstanding nouns disconnection and disparity is hard to say. With disconnection, the resistance perhaps relates to that word’s infrastructure-related meanings. Disparity perhaps gives way to disconnect because the latter’s harder sounds better convey disconnectedness. In any case, disconnection and disparity remain perfectly good words from a logical standpoint, and disconnect would often bear replacement with one or the other.



    [T]he Japanese star understands the natural disconnect between a glamorous pro golfing life and the terrors of a national cataclysm. [New York Daily News]

    There’s a disconnect when we see the same people all glammed up on the red carpets, or draping themselves around giant perfume bottles. [Independent]

    The disconnect between Washington’s view of Reagan and America’s perception of him. [Politico]

    There seems to be an increasing sense of disconnect between the capital and what is happening in the east. [NPR]

    There is a disconnect between the provincial government and local authorities over funding. [Calgary Herald]


    1. Might it not be the case that the abrupt unvoiced plosive at the end of “disconnect” carries something of the meaning with it better than the comparatively mellifluous “disparity” or “disconnection”, both of which allow you to roll right into the next word? There is, that is to say, less disparity between the sound of “disconnect” and its meaning than is evident in the disconnect between the sound of “disparity” and its meaning.

      • Excellent point! I agree. How funny that you used the actual words in question to write your answer: good unintentional pun.

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