5 Good Synonyms For Willful Ignorance (And What It Means)

Choosing to be ignorant is not a desirable quality, especially when it’s obvious that you know you’re wrong. This article will look into good synonyms that we can use to describe someone with exactly that quality and how we can tell that they’ve got it.

Which Terms Can Describe Someone Who Is Willfully Ignorant?

There aren’t many single words that we can use to describe someone who is willfully ignorant. However, it is possible to generate a decent list of phrases that will work instead.

  • Willful blindness
  • Bury one’s head in the sand
  • In denial
  • Obstinate
  • Look the other way
willful ignorance synonym

The preferred version is “willful blindness” because it refers to someone who is willingly turning a blind eye to a situation. Usually, it’s very obvious when someone or something is wrong, but someone who is willfully blind will ignore whatever that problem is.

Willful Blindness

Let’s start by looking into the preferred version and how “willful blindness” works.

Willful blindness is something that people choose to have. Usually, when it’s clear that someone is doing something wrong or when you have an incorrect opinion on something, you can show willful blindness and refuse to believe that it’s happening.

People who are willfully blind aren’t literally blind. It doesn’t mean that they can’t see what’s in front of them. Instead, it means they’re willfully pretending to be blind, or, in other words, “choosing not to see what’s going on around them.”

While their mind will register it, a willfully blind person won’t care much about what’s happening. Instead, they’ll make sure to get as far away from any challenging situations as possible, and they’ll remain willfully ignorant about whatever is happening.

You might see it written in the following ways:

  • You’re willfully blind to the situation, and there isn’t anything I can say that’ll get you to open up your view!
  • Willful blindness will be the inevitable death of mankind if we’re not careful!
  • Your willful blindness has caused all of these issues! I hope you’re happy with yourself and your inability to act!

Bury One’s Head In The Sand

Next, we want to run you through the idiom “bury one’s head in the sand.” We can use this old saying to talk about someone who might be blind to the truth of something.

Burying one’s head in the sand means that somebody is choosing to hide their vision (by burying their head). In this way, they’re refusing to accept or acknowledge the things that are happening around them.

The idiom comes from the behavior of ostriches, where it’s common to see the birds with their heads buried in the sand. While their heads are buried, there is no way for the ostrich to see out, which is what the idiom is trying to demonstrate.

We can also replace the neutral pronoun “one” with any other pronoun that works. For example:

  • Bury your head in the sand
  • Bury my head in the sand
  • Bury his head in the sand
  • Bury our head in the sand

Any of the possessive pronouns will work in place of “one” in this phrase. We simply use it to describe somebody who is deliberately ignorant about something.

If you’re struggling to understand the idiom, here you can see it in some examples:

  • If you would stop burying your head in the sand, maybe you’d be able to do something about all of these problems!
  • Please don’t let me bury my head in the sand on this one. If I look like I’m ignoring something, slap me in the face!
  • They’re all trying to bury their heads in the sand and move away from the problem! That’s not going to solve anything!

In Denial

Next, we’ll cover “in denial.” It’s a good choice when talking about someone who is willfully ignorant, but it’s also got plenty of other meanings, which is why we didn’t include it higher in our list.

“In denial” means that no matter what you’ve seen or experienced, you’ll refuse to accept it. It’s usually a mental issue where people try to block out past happenings or events and forget all about the details of those events.

“In denial” works really well when we’re talking about people who choose to ignore certain things. They can ignore things that happen around them or things that might affect or change their firmly-set belief or opinion.

However, some argue that being “in denial” in this way isn’t a choice. Instead, it’s something that your brain does as a coping mechanism to a much more traumatic event.

Being “in denial” is a stage of grief, which we might experience when we lose somebody we love. For this reason, we didn’t include it higher because it’s got overlapping meanings that could effect the “willfulness” of the phrase.

While being in denial isn’t ideal, we thought we’d include some examples to explain it:

  • He’s in denial, and I don’t think there’s anything we can say or do that’s going to get him to change his mind.
  • I’m sorry, but they’re both in denial, which is going to make it much more difficult for you to reason with them.
  • Until you give her more time, she’s going to remain in denial. There’s nothing else we can do for her.


We’ll now go over “obstinate,” which is a single word choice we can use as a synonym.

An obstinate person is someone who is happy to keep their own beliefs and opinions, even when they’re presented with contradicting ones that make more sense.

An obstinate person is difficult to talk to because you can’t challenge their opinions. It makes it very hard to have any kind of meaningful debate or conversation with the person when they’re not willing to give up on the things that they know.

“Obstinate” is the only single word we can use to describe someone who is willfully ignorant, and the following examples demonstrate it:

  • You’re obstinate because you know you’re wrong, and I can’t say anything else that’s going to convince you!
  • Would you shut up a second with your obstinate views! We all know they’re wrong, and we’re trying to help you get rid of them!
  • I’m sick of your obstinance, and it’s about time that somebody showed you exactly what it means to be a decent human being!

Look The Other Way

Finally, let’s look at another idiom, which is looking the other way.

When someone looks the other way, it means that they’ve seen something bad happen, but they’ve chosen to turn their heads away and pretend like that thing didn’t exist.

The idea behind looking the other way comes from the mantra “if I didn’t see it, it didn’t happen.” In this way, it’s a toxic way to live because you’re deliberately avoiding any confrontation or challenges in your life.

We want to try and avoid looking the other way if we want to be upstanding citizens in this world.

Looking the other way can be seen in the following ways:

  • You can’t keep looking the other way when things go wrong. Some day soon, you’re going to get caught up in the wrong mess!
  • I looked the other way when it happened, but I regret my decision to do so! Is there anything I can do to take it back?
  • I didn’t mean to look the other way, but now it’s too late to change anything! I’m so sorry!

What Does It Mean To Be Willfully Ignorant?

It’s great to cover all of these synonyms, but it might also help if you know what willful ignorance is in the first place.

Someone who is willfully ignorant is more than happy when they’re purposely ignoring something. They will do so to keep their own opinions and beliefs without outside interference. They may also do so when they don’t want to admit that they’re wrong or ignore something else.

Usually, even when presented with countering views, willfully ignorant people will ignore them. They’ll make it clear that what they believe in is the only thing that matters to them, and they’ll put very little effort into changing that.

Also, if something is going on around them, a willfully ignorant person might turn a blind eye to it. There’s very little that will cause willfully ignorant people to act in a good way in these situations.

What Is An Example Of Willful Ignorance?

To help you understand it some more, we’ll include a quick example of what willful ignorance looks like. It’s not ideal to have as a quality, so if you can avoid someone who does this, you’re in luck!

  • If you witness a dangerous crime across a street, most people would at least call the police.
  • However, if you choose to continue walking and act like you didn’t see anything, this would be willful ignorance.
  • If you have a strong belief that some people are the way that they are for trivial reasons, and someone has provided you with evidence against this, you will be willfully ignorance if you don’t even consider the opposing views to your beliefs.

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