‘Isolated' vs 'Scattered': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on June 1, 2023

Are you curious about the difference between 'isolated' vs. 'scattered?' You may have heard the terms on a weather forecast or read them on instructions. So, here is a guide with definitions, examples, pronunciations, and grammar tips.

Before we start, do you need a quick answer?

Here it is: 

  • 'Isolated' is an adjective that means individual or alone. 
  • 'Scattered' is a past tense verb that means distributed randomly.

While the short answer will get you by, you can learn more by reading the rest of this post!

What is the Difference Between 'Isolated' vs. 'Scattered?'

'Isolated' and 'scattered' are different parts of speech. The first is an adjective, and the second is the past tense form of the verb scatter. Furthermore, these terms have different meanings.

So, if you hear a weatherman say 'isolated' showers, they mean that there may be a couple of showers spaced apart. When they say 'scattered' showers, they suggest that multiple showers are dispersed randomly.

When to Use 'Isolated' vs. 'Scattered'

You know that the first term is an adjective, while the former is a verb.

So, when do you use 'isolated' vs. 'scattered?'

  • Use 'isolated' when you are talking about something that occurs sporadically.

For example, you could say:

There are isolated polymers in the compound. 

  • Use 'isolated' to describe secluded locations.

For example, someone might say:

Living in an isolated community has advantages and disadvantages. It is peaceful, but you must drive further to stores, restaurants, schools, hospitals, and other amenities.

  • Use 'isolated' when discussing an incident that does not occur frequently.

For example, you could say:

He was in trouble as a teen, but it was an isolated incident. Since then, he has been a model citizen. 

  • Use 'scattered' when referring to something distributed randomly.

For example, you might hear someone say:

Please scatter the sprinkles over the top of the cake.

  • Use 'scattered' when describing a mess.

For example, you might tell your kids:

Before you get any more toys out, pick up the ones you have scattered everywhere.

  • Use 'scattered' to describe something not quarantined or rounded up.

For example, you might see:

An armored truck flipped this morning. Money was scattered all over the freeway.

It is worth noting that people typically use 'scattered' when talking about powder or particles and spread when referring to something liquid.

Definition of 'Isolated': What Does 'Isolated' Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 'isolated' is an adjective that means:

  • Unique or occurring individually

It can also mean:

  • Occurring alone
  • Taking place sporadically

Synonyms of 'Isolated'

  • Secluded
  • Cloistered
  • Hidden
  • Covert
  • Retired
  • Sheltered
  • Secret
  • Remote
  • Lone
  • Solitary

Phrases and Sayings with 'Isolated'

  • Isolated showers
  • Isolated incident
  • Isolated location
  • Isolated case
  • Isolated polymer chain
  • Isolated occurrence

Definition of 'Scattered': What Does 'Scattered' Mean?

According to the same dictionary, 'scattered' means:

  • To cause to disperse widely

It can also mean:

  • To make something vanish or disappear
  • To squander or throw about aimlessly
  • To have thoughts that are all over the place
  • Divided and dispersed
  • To spread out in various directions
  • Occurring irregularly

It can also be a noun that means:

  • The act of scattering or spreading something

Synonyms of 'Scattered'

  • Stray
  • Aimless
  • Dispursed
  • Irregular
  • Random
  • Accidental
  • Dispelled
  • Disbanded

Phrases and Sayings with 'Scattered'

  • Scattered showers
  • Scattered thunderstorms
  • Scattered ashes
  • Scatterbrained
  • Scattered about
  • Scattered everywhere

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Isolated' vs. 'Scattered'

Now, let's look at the pronunciation of 'isolated' vs. 'scattered.' Learning to pronounce words correctly will help you use them more confidently in conversation and written communications.

So, here is a pronunciation guide: 

  • Use this phonetic spelling of 'isolated' to pronounce it correctly:


  • To pronounce 'scattered,' use this phonetic spelling:


Sample Sentences of 'Isolated' vs. 'Scattered'

Before you go, here are some sample sentences using 'isolated' vs. 'scattered.' Please read through them to ensure you know how to use these terms in different ways.


  • We are isolated from our neighbors, but it is incredibly peaceful here.
  • It can be challenging psychologically to be isolated from your friends and family.
  • Officials isolated the dangerous chemicals, and remediation crews are completing the cleanup.
  • After you've isolated the problem, you can formulate a plan.
  • Isolated showers are moving through the area.
  • We are planning a retreat to the isolated village. We hope the location will help us disconnect from will life and connect with nature.


  • We scattered her ashes in her favorite place.
  • Having scattered thoughts is often the result of stress.
  • Please keep your belongings organized. It is hard for me to focus when your things are scattered.
  • The scattered team handles issues all over the globe.
  • Sometimes, focusing your efforts is better than having your attention scattered in different directions.
  • Did you see the weather forecast? We are going to have scattered showers all afternoon.
  • The prizes are scattered throughout the field. Each team has 30 minutes to collect as many prizes as they can.


  • The Weather Channel report said there would be scattered showers on Tuesday and isolated showers on Wednesday.
  • Have cleanup crews isolated the toxic chemicals that were scattered on the freeway?
  • Our family is scattered in isolated towns throughout the country.
  • Are your thoughts scattered? We really need to focus if we are going to get the problem isolated.
  • When you are isolated your thoughts can feel more scattered. Not having anyone to talk to can make your mind run wild.

Final Advice on the Difference Between 'Isolated' vs. 'Scattered

If you have to differentiate between 'isolated' vs. 'scattered,' you should have no issue, but here is a quick recap: 

  • 'Isolated' is an adjective that means a single occurrence or sporadic. 
  • 'Scattered' is a past tense verb that means disbursed randomly or caused to disappear. 

Depending on the usage, 'isolated' and 'scattered' can be synonyms. Keeping them straight can be challenging. So, if you ever need a reminder, you can come back to review this lesson.

You can also read the other confusing word guides here to learn about commonly misused terms. They are a great way to expand your vocabulary, improve your grammar, and gain confidence in your verbal and writing skills.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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