The Satisfactory Usage of Unsatisfied and Dissatisfied

  • “Satisfied” means that a person is content, happy, fulfilled, or that their needs are unmet.
  • “Unsatisfied” means just the opposite – something is missing or unfulfilled relating to a person or object. 
  • “Dissatisfied” is used in specific situations where a person is disappointed with a person or experience.

It is not uncommon for two words in the English language that appear to be interchangeable to have different meanings. The problem is that many people do not realize there is a difference and either believe that one of the forms is wrong or that they can use one of them as an all-purpose catch-all. 

The words “Unsatisfied” and “Dissatisfied” are prime examples. While the words themselves are nearly identical and their meanings are similar, each is useful in different situations. 

Fortunately, we will break these two words down here until you are satisfied with their meanings and use these words properly with confidence. 


Before we contrast the two words themselves, it is essential to understand the meaning of the root word. If one is satisfied, they enjoy a feeling of contentment and happiness – fulfilled. 

  • The Chinese buffet satisfied Cliff’s raging hunger. 

Here, Cliff was famished. As the nature of a buffet allows a paying customer to return for additional food as desired, he filled his stomach until he had thoroughly banished his hunger.

As a result, he is warm, happy, and ready for a nap. 

  • The mechanic’s skills satisfied the job requirements. 

This sentence provides a different circumstance, as a person is not being satisfied but an intangible set of guidelines. However, since he meets the specifications, the mechanic is qualified to perform the work and will likely be hired.

  • After Alfredo went to his knees, Maria was finally satisfied with his apology.

In each situation, the word “satisfied” corresponds with the fulfillment of expectations. Whether those fill a need such as hunger, a skill set, or involve personal desires, there are parameters for success. 


On the other hand, unsatisfied means that those needs or expectations are unfulfilled. This word is acceptable when dealing with people, non-human, and abstract ideas or concepts; it is the most commonly used form. 

This negative form is so diverse because the word “satisfied” itself has a lot of different meanings, as expressed in the examples above – requirements such as fulfillment, contentment, or completing a specific set of demands. 

So when those expectations are not met . . . 

  • Anita was unsatisfied with her new three-legged stool because it wobbled whenever she sat upon it.  

Anita expected a stable stool with equal leg dimensions; therefore, this product’s expectations were not satisfied.

  • The meal at the restaurant was expensive, but the portion that arrived was so small that Terry’s hunger remained unsatisfied

Perhaps Terry should have joined Cliff at his buffet! 

  • After three months with Kira, Bert realized that he was unsatisfied with their relationship. 

Now, there could be many reasons why Bert is unhappy here. Still, regardless of what they may be, it is clear that Bert has certain expectations or criteria that he seeks to enjoy a successful relationship. For whatever reason, those are unfulfilled. 

  • An unsatisfied order for screws caused a project delay that lasted for months. 

Here is an instance in which a specific requirement was unmet, in this case, an order of screws, resulting in an inability to perform a particular task.


This usage of this word form is a little more complex because it is far more specific than its counterpart. 

The main idea is that being dissatisfied means that you are disappointed with another person or experience. This usage is more often used to express disappointment concerning humans and human activities rather than objects.

  • Jake was dissatisfied with his dinner at the restaurant because the waitress was rude. 

Even though it sounds like he is not pleased with the food, that is not the case here. The sentence explains that it is the actions of the waitress that caused the unpleasant experience. 

  • Dissatisfied with Kyle’s work, Rita fired him. 

This one is short and sweet – well, Kyle would probably disagree. While Rita may or may not be unsatisfied with Kyle, she is dissatisfied with his work, so she removed him from her project. 

That signifies a significant difference between using one word form over the other. While that difference may seem minor, it can determine whether you have used the word correctly or not.   

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By James Smith

Described as an "English Guru," James Smith holds a Master's degree in English from Arkansas Tech University, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing with a minor in ESL. James is a sought after writer and editor with university teaching experience.

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