Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


1. (computing) to give a computer an instruction not to do something, usually one of a list of things it could do

2. (British) to decide that someone who is a member of parliament should not be a candidate at the next election

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The first recorded use of the verb deselect was in 1968, when the New York Times described how applicants on a programme to volunteer overseas were de-selected. The political meaning dates from the late 1970s, as does the related noun deselection. The verb is formed from the prefix ‘de-‘ and the verb ‘select’, which comes from Latin and dates from the 16th century.


In the UK political system, to deselect a sitting MP means to decide that they should not be a candidate for their constituency at the next election. The term arose in the late 1970s when the British Labour party put in place procedures for doing this. Deselect is an example of a Macmillan Dictionary entry that is different in the US and UK versions. The UK version gives the two senses above. The US version also starts with the computing sense but does not give the UK political sense. Instead it has the meaning used in the New York Times citation mentioned above: ‘to remove someone from a training program because they are very unlikely to succeed’. The computing sense is placed first in both entries because it is by far the most common meaning in the corpus of contemporary English used to compile Macmillan Dictionary.


“To deselect a filter option, hold the Ctrl key while you click.”
(enTenTen15 corpus)

“They have rejected suggestions they could seek to deselect MPs who don’t agree with them.”
(enTenTen15 corpus)

Related words

adopt, blackball, unseat

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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