Misinformation, Disinformation

12 April 2024

Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher, we answer a question from a reader in South Korea.


Hello, dear my teacher.

I'm Lim from South Korea.

This year 2024, there are many news reports about elections all over the world. I see the word ‘fake news' in many articles, but I can't tell the difference between ‘disinformation' and ‘misinformation.' Could you explain exactly the difference showing different example expressions?

I always thank you.

Gyeonggyun Lim


Thank you for writing, Lim. This is a very good question.

Mis- and dis- are both common prefixes in English. Prefixes are letters we add to the beginning of a word. Each prefix has a meaning. Adding a prefix to a word makes a new word with a new meaning.

Let's start with mis- and misinformation.

Mis- means "bad" or "wrong." For example, add mis- to adventure and we get the new word misadventure. A misadventure is an unlucky event or a bad adventure or experience.

So, misinformation means "wrong or bad information." Misinformation often comes from someone misunderstanding something.

We often use misinformation with the phrase "a lot of."

For example:

There is a lot of misinformation on the internet.

Next let's look at disinformation. Dis- means "not" or "none." For example, if we add dis- to agree, the new word disagree means to "not agree."

It might seem like disinformation just means "not information." But its meaning is more complex than that. Disinformation means false information that is spread on purpose. A person, group, or government can spread disinformation. Their goal is to hide the truth or trick people.

We often use disinformation with the word campaign. For example:

I hope the disinformation campaign does not work.

Someone who spreads disinformation knows that the information is untrue. But when misinformation spreads, it is generally not done to deceive, or trick, people.

We often use both misinformation and disinformation with the word spread. Note that "spread" can be a verb or a noun.

For example,

The internet spreads a lot of misinformation.

The government should stop the spread of disinformation.

We hope this explanation has helped you, Lim.

Do you have a question about American English? Send us an email at learningenglish@voanews.com.

And that's Ask a Teacher.

I'm Gena Bennett.

Gena Bennett wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.