Skip to main content

Abstracted vs Preoccupied vs Absent vs Absentminded vs Distraught

Abstracted, preoccupied, absent, absentminded and distraught all are comparable when they mean inattentive to what presently claims or demands consideration.

Abstracted implies absorption of the mind in something other than one’s surroundings, and often suggests reflection on weighty matters.

  • Then he sat and thought . . . in the concentrated, abstracted way he has . . . almost forgetting my presence.
    Rose Macaulay

Preoccupied implies unreadiness for any new demands on one’s attention because one is already busy with other thoughts or occupations.

  • Edna was so preoccupied with misgivings as to whether he wanted to marry her that she had never faced squarely the more important problem of whether she wanted to marry him.

Absent stresses inability to fix the mind on present concerns; it often connotes mental wandering rather than concentration on other things.

  • Sir Joshua . . . was quite absent all the day, not knowing a word that was said to him.

Absentminded implies that the mind is fixed elsewhere; it suggests abstractedness or preoccupation more than absentness.

  • She would make some absentminded, irrelevant remark, as if she had not heard him.

It often implies a mental habit rather than a present mood.

  • absentminded professor

Distraught suggests inability to concentrate and also implies an agitated state of mind caused by worry or perplexity.

  • Oh, if I wake, shall I not be distraught, environed with all these hideous fears?
  • distraught with grief for the dead queen