Definition of alienation in English:



  • 1The state or experience of being isolated from a group or an activity to which one should belong or in which one should be involved.

    ‘unemployment may generate a sense of political alienation’
    • ‘From a more personal experience, I experienced alienation while visiting these clubs.’
    • ‘This goes together with the complete absence of any sense of distance or alienation from the government they elected.’
    • ‘The concept of the actor observing himself and experiencing alienation from the self is evident throughout the videotape.’
    • ‘This implies first, that women must begin to overcome the alienation from, and learn again to be one with their bodies.’
    • ‘We often felt, then, a profound sense of alienation from American culture and political life.’
    • ‘Chan says the situations in the novel genuinely reflect his experience, particularly the feeling of alienation that his hero experiences daily.’
    • ‘Not the least of her problems is her painful sense of alienation from life - an alienation, she realizes, that neither wild nor domestic animals seem to feel.’
    • ‘This situation of alienation is made worse by the ‘voucher system’ which applies to all refugees who, having no friends or relatives, are compelled to accept public housing.’
    • ‘Like most kids, I had my own experience of alienation, but the urge to merge with the crowd was stronger than any sympathy I might have shared for another outcast.’
    • ‘Alice experiences alienation and fear for herself and her family, all the while keeping a personal journal including the daily headlines.’
    • ‘These two feed on each other, the recollections of what is lost and the alienation from what is found.’
    • ‘Perhaps for all of them, the experience of exile led to a sense of alienation from their homeland, and to a growing feeling of pessimism about the prospects for change there.’
    • ‘They recounted years of frustration and alienation from being ignored despite worry, illness and death.’
    • ‘Walden, as a sign of our exile from nature, complements what is considered to be a modern alienation from the sacred as well.’
    • ‘That's why it has excited our culture beyond any reasonable expectation: It helps to heal our alienation from our own experience.’
    • ‘A culture's excitement about the web is directly proportional to that culture's alienation from its everyday experience.’
    • ‘Now think of some possible ways to link being gay, engaging in risk behaviors, experiencing hostility and alienation.’
    • ‘I think your analysis about the disconnection and alienation from communities and the consequences is spot on.’
    • ‘This movie lacked the alienation and angst of the first.’
    isolation, detachment, estrangement, distance, separation, severance, parting, division, divorce, cutting off, turning away, withdrawal
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Loss or lack of sympathy; estrangement.
      ‘public alienation from bureaucracy’
      • ‘The result is deep-going alienation from the political process.’
      • ‘Government defeats in high-profile referendums on the Nice treaty and abortion have highlighted the political establishment's alienation from the electorate.’
      • ‘Social inequality has grown and alienation from the political establishment is widespread.’
      • ‘But, if anyone doubts the growing sense of popular alienation from the great European project, they should have been paying closer attention to events in Dublin in the last few days.’
      • ‘The reasons for the alienation from the Democratic Party are not hard to find.’
      • ‘Sundquist believes Chesnutt's subtle focus on his African roots is meant to highlight his sense of difference and alienation from the mainstream.’
      • ‘Instead, it is defined by its disconnection and alienation from party matters.’
      • ‘While the movement may no longer be so visible, there is no diminution of that original sense of alienation from India.’
      • ‘Mass alienation from the political system is reflected in the dismal turnout at the polls - an estimated 38 or 39 percent, the second lowest in history.’
      • ‘He is worried about hubris, overstretch, a too-great reliance on military force, the alienation and anger of foreigners.’
      • ‘In those places, what is needed least of all is any sense of alienation from the political system.’
      • ‘The third party was able to capitalise on the alienation from both major parties to significantly boost its vote and more than double its seats.’
      • ‘It has meaning for us too: issues of law and order, immigration, alienation from mainstream politics and the extremity of the challenge for the left are just as true here as there.’
      • ‘The turnout at the polls is expected to fall to an unprecedented low, expressing widespread alienation from the political process.’
      • ‘There is a deep degree of social alienation from the whole political process.’
      • ‘In the last general election alienation from the establishment political parties led to a voter strike. The result was the lowest turnout since universal suffrage was introduced.’
      • ‘The relationship between fan and idol suffers from a tragic alienation or lack of consummation.’
      • ‘But as in 2001, if anything these grim statistics underestimate the scale of public alienation from the political class.’
      • ‘Achebe and Ellison have been among the most eloquent spokesmen for the alienation of the modern black person.’
      • ‘He also identified a sense of alienation from the political process, rather than apathy; a feeling of disengagement more likely to be found in areas of high deprivation.’
    2. 1.2 (in Marxist theory) a condition of workers in a capitalist economy, resulting from a lack of identity with the products of their labor and a sense of being controlled or exploited.
      • ‘The heart of the dialectic lies in Hegel's theory of alienation.’
      • ‘But the rhetoric of Marxist exploitation and alienation does not speak to the needs of non-labourers, and may indeed oppose them.’
      • ‘Each chapter takes a detailed and wide-ranging look at aspects of Marxist theory such as alienation, oppression, the family and class struggle.’
      • ‘On thing Marx is known for is his theory of worker alienation.’
      • ‘Secondly, Marx was opposed to the state and figured that once capitalist relations of alienation were overthrown, there would be no need for a state any longer.’
    3. 1.3Psychiatry A state of depersonalization or loss of identity in which the self seems unreal, thought to be caused by difficulties in relating to society and the resulting prolonged inhibition of emotion.
      • ‘The result is alienation, depersonalization, and degradation of the human purpose.’
      • ‘The teacher's certainty about his role, largely the result of alienation, asserts hierarchy.’
      • ‘More recently, Seeman suggested that normlessness and meaninglessness are manifestations of anomie rather than of alienation.’
      • ‘In other words, they try to keep their addiction secret and suffer low self esteem and alienation as a result.’
      • ‘Amotivation represents the lowest possible level of self-determination, as it implies a loss of personal control and alienation akin to learned helplessness.’
    4. 1.4 An effect, sought by some dramatists, whereby the audience remains objective and does not identify with the actors.
      • ‘The two works amply demonstrate ways in which the separation of voice and image can be used by a director to create alienation in the audience and to shift the balance of power between characters on screen.’
      • ‘And, through that shock or that alienation effect, you're induced to rethink certain conditions.’
      • ‘In Henry V, the character of the Chorus serves as much to establish an effect of alienation as to plunge the audience into the fiction.’
      • ‘As the process is reflected upon, an effect of Brechtian alienation occurs, and the naturalization of genre is dismantled.’
      • ‘This was the theory of alienation whereby the audience, already familiar with the story line, does not get caught up with the narrative.’
    5. 1.5Law The transfer of the ownership of property rights.
      • ‘Another example of alienation arises when one joint tenant charges his interest in the property.’
      • ‘The covenant is concerned with alienation of the property.’
      • ‘I think this Court has said on a couple of occasions that alienation is critical to ownership.’
      • ‘I am not satisfied that an alienation or transfer of property, in and of itself, is a sufficient basis on which to imply a trust of that property.’
      • ‘First used to indicate the process of alienation of Church property to the state, it soon came to be applied to the loss of temporal power by the Church.’
      transfer, conveyance, passing on, handing over, devolution
      View synonyms


Late Middle English: from Latin alienatio(n-), from the verb alienare ‘estrange’, from alienus (see alien). The term alienation effect (1940s) is a translation of German Verfremdungseffekt.