All too often writers who mix up these two words are the butt of mockful criticism.
Distain is an archaic word meaning to be stained or disgraced. Typically what writers mean when they use the word distain is actually disdain.
Disdain as a noun means something not worthy of respect, such as Many New Yorkers hold Los Angeles’ art scene with disdain. It also can be a verb that means to judge poorly, as in She refused to go through the door held, disdaining his offer to be a “gentleman.”
In short, if you find yourself using the word distain, cross it out. You probably mean disdain.
My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.