The Meaning of Aloof: What It Is and How To Use It

Have you ever wondered about the definition of aloof? This article will provide you with all of the info you need on the word aloof, including its definition, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word aloof mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary, Dictionary, and Cambridge Dictionary, the word aloof, pronounced “əˈluf” is an adjective that means emotionally or physically distant. This is usually used to describe someone who is not friendly, or someone who is conspicuously reserved, even suspiciously so. People who are aloof are often thought to think that they are better than others, and they usually have an air of condescension. The word aloof can also be used as an adverb which means at a distance, though this is less common. If you are describing a person as being at a distance, it is better to use a different word because people will probably think that you are calling that person standoffish or unfriendly.

There are many different words that also mean aloof in other languages. These words can also be used to describe people who are reserved, standoffish, or less than friendly. This list of translations for the word aloof is provided by Word Sense

  • German: distanziert‎, menschenscheu‎, zurückhaltend‎, reserviert‎
  • Scottish Gaelic: fad às‎
  • Swedish: reserverad‎
  • Italian: distaccato‎ (masc.)
  • Dutch: gereserveerd‎, afstandelijk‎, terughoudend‎
  • French: distant‎, dédaigneux‎, réservé‎
  • Portuguese: alijado‎ (masc.)
  • Spanish: alejado‎, reservado‎, distante‎, apartado
  • Bulgarian: сдържан‎, резервиран‎
  • Russian: отчуждённый‎, стороня́щийся‎, сде́ржанный‎ (reserved)
  • Polish: trzymający się z dala, z dystansem, z rezerwą
  • Finnish: etäinen‎, varautunut‎, kylmäkiskoinen‎

What is the etymology of the word aloof?

According to Etymonline, the word aloof has been used since the 1530s. Then, it meant “to windward.” This was taken from the prefix a- meaning on, and the root is in the Middle English loof, meaning windward direction. It is likely that this word came from the Ditch loef or Middle Dutch lof which also gave us the word luff. These words were used to mean the weather side of a ship. This was originally used in nautical orders in order to keep the front of the ship facing the wind and therefore to steer clear of any lee-shore or quarter. This was then used to mean at a distance but still within view. It has been used figuratively to mean apart or withdrawn since the 1600s. Related words include the adverb aloofly and the noun aloofness.

How can the word aloof be used in a sentence?

The word aloof can be used in many different contexts to describe someone who is emotionally distant. The word aloof has a negative connotation and is usually used to describe a person that someone does not like. In this example, Holly and Faye are at a holiday party at their work and are gossiping about the new guy that just started.

Holly: Ugh, have you met the new guy, Jared?

Faye: Yeah. What a douche. I tried to make small talk with him in the breakroom and he totally blew me off.

Holly: The same thing happened to me! You know at first I thought maybe he was just shy or settling in, but I’ve tried inviting him to lunch with us, asking him about himself; everything. It’s all been a moot point. I’m starting to think he’s just aloof.

Faye: He totally thinks he’s better than all of us. When guess what, Jared, we’re all making the same terrible salary!

Here, Holly and Faye think that their new coworker Jared is aloof because seemingly no matter how hard they try to befriend him, Jared is still being emotionally distant and blowing them off. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if someone is being aloof or if they are just shy, so it is best to give them the benefit of the doubt.

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word aloof?

There are many different words and phrases that one can use in place of the term aloof. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning as another word or phrase. Synonyms are very useful to know if you want to avoid repeating yourself as well as if you are looking to expand your vocabulary. The below list of synonyms for the word aloof is provided by Thesaurus.

  • uninterested
  • withdrawn
  • unfriendly
  • indifferent
  • above
  • cool
  • loner
  • standoffish
  • unresponsive
  • haughty
  • unsympathetic
  • detached
  • supercilious
  • hard-boiled
  • stuck up
  • unconcerned
  • solitary
  • cold fish
  • offish
  • reserved
  • remote
  • unapproachable
  • apart
  • distant
  • forbidding
  • secluded
  • on ice
  • hard-hearted
  • putting on airs
  • laid back
  • casual
  • unsociable
  • cold
  • thick-skinned
  • incurious
  • uppity
  • lone wolf
  • chilly

There are also many different words and phrases that a person can use that are the opposite of the word aloof, which are called antonyms. Antonyms are also very useful to know if you are looking to expand your English language and grammar knowledge, or if you are looking to grow your vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word aloof is also provided by Thesaurus.

  • comradely
  • fond
  • thick
  • buddy-buddy
  • propitious
  • affectionate
  • chummy
  • neighborly
  • kind
  • peaceful
  • intimate
  • convivial
  • genial
  • beneficial
  • receptive
  • confiding
  • affable
  • sociable
  • peaceable
  • familiar
  • loving
  • welcoming
  • clubby
  • well-disposed
  • on good terms
  • companionable
  • tender
  • kindly
  • faithful
  • amiable
  • civil
  • sympathetic
  • favorable
  • benign
  • attentive
  • benevolent
  • attached
  • solicitous
  • loyal
  • cordial
  • auspicious
  • friendly
  • conciliatory
  • good
  • amicable
  • helpful
  • close
  • outgoing

Overall, the word aloof is an adjective that means standoffish, removed or distant emotionally, though it can also sometimes mean someone is at a distance physically. People who are aloof are thought to be pretentious and holier-than-thou. People who are aloof are conspicuously reserved or unfriendly, and people might judge other for being aloof and thinking they are better than other people.

Sources:

  1. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/aloof
  2. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/friendly?s=t
  3. https://www.etymonline.com/word/aloof
  4. https://www.wordsense.eu/aloof/
  5. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/aloof
  6. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/aloof
  7. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aloof