Adjective > Insular

Adjective – Insular

This word comes from the Latin one for “island.”

Insular” can simply mean “like an island” or “related to an island.”

Here’s the figurative meaning. Insular people and things are alone, cut off from other groups, and too focused on their own narrow, limited ideas.

Part of speech:
Adjective: “that insular culture,” “this insular group.”

Other forms:
The adverb is “insularly.”
For the nouns, use “insularity” or “insularism.”
The related verb, “insulate,” is so useful figuratively that we’ll spend a whole other issue on it later.

How to use it:
Talk about insular people, families, groups, communities, nations, cultures, and industries, along with their insular mindsets, attitudes, lifestyles, goals, desires, and so on.

You can also describe a place as insular. That might mean it’s literally island-like, separate from other places. Or, that might mean the people there have insular attitudes: “persistent views of the insular Midwest” (Washington Post).

Because the word “insular” suggests an island, I don’t recommend mixing in other metaphors. That is, to my ear, it sounds fine to talk about “bridging a group’s insularity,” but it sounds awkward to talk about “breaking through a group’s insularity.” (They’re on an island, not behind a wall.)

“With the rise in popularity of social media platforms, Iranian efforts to remain insular face a greater threat than ever.”
— Melissa Etehad, Los Angeles Times, 21 May 2019

“For the longest time, Teresa Miller wanted to get as far from Oklahoma as possible—to escape from … the small-town insularity of Tahlequah.”
— Publisher’s description of Means of Transit: A Slightly Embellished Memoir, University of Oklahoma Press, 2008