Mary’s question: “I am never quite sure when to use ‘distrust’ versus ‘mistrust.’ Are they interchangeable, or do they each have specific usages/meanings?”
BizWritingTip response: There is a fine line between these two words. Based on the Oxford Dictionary, distrust as a noun means “suspicion or lack of trust.” Mistrust means “suspicion or lack of confidence.” Therefore, when you are using them as nouns they are almost interchangeable.
I have a great mistrust of the new technology. (lack of confidence)
I have a great distrust of the new technology. (lack of trust)
However, when you are using them as verbs the difference is a little clearer. Mistrust suggests vague doubts while distrust is stronger suggesting definite suspicions and even a complete lack of trust. In other words, if I mistrust someone, I’m suspicious of them. If I distrust someone, I have a good reason why I don’t trust them.
He says he is happy with the decision, but I mistrust his statement. (I have some doubts.)
Based on my talks with the customer, I distrust his statement that he can sell more products to them this year. (I have a reason for my doubts.)
I hope you don’t mistrust this tip.