When a friend posts something on Facebook and you find it annoying or—for the lack of better word—stupid, do you unlike it or do you dislike it? Both words are used interchangeably by most people on the Internet, but not by grammarians who are in the know. Do you know the difference between the two?
Unlike has different meanings. It can be an adjective, which means “different, unequal, or not alike,” such as “they donated unlike amounts to the organization.” It can also be a preposition, which means “different from,” as in “a landscape unlike any other” or “not characteristic of,” for example, “it is unlike him to walk out of the conversation,” and “in a different manner from,” like in the sentence “I speak clearly unlike the others.” At the same, the most common definition of the word that is widely used on the Internet is the verb, which means “to not like something,” and you will most likely not find it in the dictionary simply because this is formed by adding the prefix un- to the verb like.
Dislike, on the other hand, can be a noun or a verb. As a noun, it means “a feeling of aversion or disapproval,” such as “they displayed intense dislike toward his behavior,” and as a verb, it means “to regard with or to show disapproval,” as in the sentence “they disliked his long speech.”
Unlike and dislike have been confused by many people online, especially on Facebook. Once you click or tap “Like” on a post, you see “Unlike,” but we never see the “Dislike” option, simply because there is not (at least, not yet). And this confused people whether the appropriate word is unlike or dislike. Most people use unlike when they mean dislike, because that is the former is what they see below the posts they liked. They think that is the right word. It is simple, really. When you unlike a post, it means that you previously liked it and realized that you no longer like it. When you dislike a post, it means you disapprove of it, you do not like it at all, right from the moment you saw it.
Although context makes the intended meaning clear, it is best to use these words appropriately: dislike when you disapprove of the post and unlike when you no longer like the post, which you previously liked. Knowing the difference between the two will help you identify whether you follow good usage or popular usage.