What is a word for situation on people ignoring unimportant people?

Precisely in the situation that people are trying to ignore people in a polite way

  • 1
    What do you mean by "unimportant people"? Who decides who is not "important"? And what part of this is "polite"? Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 13:26
  • Depending on the situation, you could just say they ignored people with a grater task at hand if they were busy etc.. kinda vague what unimportant means in this situation.
    – Codingale
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 14:34

3 Answers 3


people ignoring unimportant people ... in a polite way

You're kind of looking for an antonym of "snub", which still includes being ignored...which will almost by definition be hard to be interpreted as polite.

The closest thing I can think of is the expression "smile and nod", which is the idea that you don't really respond to someone and you're just letting them say what they feel like saying. The reason it can be interpreted as polite is that a reaction was given--but not one that took the conversation further.

The likely-unusual-to-new-speakers word "nod" means to raise and lower your head in a way to suggest "yes" or "agreement". Though in here it implies this is just a polite way of not getting into a confrontation with someone--vs. actually agreeing or being interested in their issue.


The expression cold shoulder might be appropriate, though it's not specifically about somebody that is unimportant. it might also be used in other circumstances, for example guests who have overstayed their welcome.

He gave them the cold shoulder.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, it can also be used as a verb:

He was cold-shouldered by all of his colleagues.

  • 5
    "cold shoulder" also wouldn't be particularly considered "polite" Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 6:42
  • 1
    @HostileFork: It can be impolite, but need not necessarily be.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 6:44

If a person were simply in the state of being ignored, then you may refer to them as being "beneath notice". Examples of this occur in movies where the staff of wealthy individuals commit crimes but are overlooked initially as potential suspects, e.g. "the butler did it."

Fundamentally I believe it depends on the situation. A news reporter who is ignoring the people who are trying to be seen on air can be said to be "trying to stay focused on his/her task"

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