Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
Distrust is a formal way of not trusting any one party too much in a situation of grave risk or deep doubt. It is commonly expressed in civics as a division or balance of powers, or in politics as means of validating treaty terms. Systems based on distrust simply divide the responsibility so that checks and balances can operate. The phrase " Trust, but verify" refers specifically to distrust.
An electoral system or adversarial process inevitably is based on distrust, but not on mistrust. Parties compete in the system, but they do not compete to subvert the system itself, or gain bad faith advantage through it - if they do they are easily caught by the others. Of course much mistrust does exist between parties, and it is exactly this which motivates putting in place a formal system of distrust. Diplomatic protocol for instance, which applies between states, relies on such means as formal disapproval which in effect say "we do not trust that person". It also tends to rely on a strict etiquette - distrusting each person's habits to signal their intent, and instead relying on a global standard for behaviour in sensitive social settings.
A protocol as defined in computer science uses a more formal idea of distrust itself. Different parts of a system are not supposed to "trust" each other but rather perform specific assertions, requests and validations. Once these are passed, the responsibility for errors lies strictly with the receiving part of the system, not that which sent the original information. Applying this principle inside one program is called contract-based design.
Corporate governance relies on distrust insofar as the board is not to trust the reports it receives from management, but is empowered to investigate them, challenge them, and otherwise act on behalf of shareholders vs. managers. The fact that they rarely or never do so in most American companies is a sign that the distrust relationship has broken down - accounting scandals and calls for accounting reform are the inevitable result. It is precisely to avoid such larger crises of trust in "the system" that formal distrust measures are put in place to begin with.
The Collaborative International Dictionary
distrust \dis*trust"\, n.
Doubt of sufficiency, reality, or sincerity; lack of confidence, faith, or reliance; as, distrust of one's power, authority, will, purposes, schemes, etc.
Suspicion of evil designs.
Alienation and distrust . . . are the growth of false principles.
State of being suspected; loss of trust.
distrust \dis*trust"\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Distrusted; p. pr. & vb. n. Distrusting.] [Cf. Mistrust.] To feel absence of trust in; not to confide in or rely upon; to deem of questionable sufficiency or reality; to doubt; to be suspicious of; to mistrust.
Not distrusting my health.
--2 Mac. ix. 22.
To distrust the justice of your cause.
He that requireth the oath doth distrust that other.
Of all afraid,
Distrusting all, a wise, suspicious maid.
Note: Mistrust has been almost wholly driven out by distrust.
--T. L. K. Oliphant.
Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary
n. Lack of trust or confidence. vb. To put no trust in; to have no confidence in.
Usage examples of "distrust".
Aces have great power, and for the first time in many years a sizable segment of the public has begun to distrust those aces and fear that power.
Lee may have been justified in some of his anger at Franklin, Adams felt, but Lee was badly cast in his role, a dreadful aggravation to Franklin and also to the French, who not only disliked him but distrusted him, which was more serious.
But when we recollect with how much ease, in the more ancient civil wars, the zeal of party and the habits of military obedience had converted the native citizens of Rome into her most implacable enemies, we shall be inclined to distrust this extreme delicacy of strangers and barbarians, who had never beheld Italy till they entered it in a hostile manner.
I was relieved to find our journey ending, as I felt an increasing distrust of Eleanor, and a growing conviction that if she could injure me with Juan Cordova, she would.
On a freezing day in December, another child goes missing: thirteen-year-old Alison Carter vanishes from the isolated Derbyshire hamlet of Scardale, a self contained, insular community that distrusts the outside world.
But, generous and freehearted as the Secretary was, there was a grain of distrust of his brother-in-law in his heart still.
The cost of such vigilance was that Du Vrangr Gata ended up spying on the Varden as much as on their enemies, a fact that Nasuada made sure to conceal from the bulk of her followers, for it would only sow hatred, distrust, and dissent.
Hivites and Jebusites, treated these allies with such distrust and contumely as was quite enough to alienate them.
How can the people have confidence when the lords of the province, father and son, distrust and plot against each other?
After they had crossed into Galicia they halted at a village so that the Mayor could inquire where there was a vineyard at which they could buy good wine, for they were down to the last bottles of manchegan, and the Mayor distrusted all wine with labels.
At Vienna, the empress-queen was not more solicitous in promoting the trade and internal manufactures of her dominions, by sumptuary regulations, necessary restrictions on foreign superfluities, by opening her ports in the Adriatic, and giving proper encouragement to commerce, than she was careful and provident in reforming the economy of her finances, maintaining a respectable body of forces, and guarding, by defensive alliances, against the enterprise of his Prussian majesty, on whose military power she looked with jealousy and distrust.
Helpless to prevent the corruption at their head, the proxies fragmented into distrust and mutual blame rather than joining forces to contain it.
Ramuel, distrusting the address on Rue Reaumur, took the additional precaution of having his mail sent on from there to a box number.
The wealth and size of Transportation so overshadowed all of them individually, that usually their attitude was distrust of Sellars and a bias toward Eli.
Seeing the hostility and distrust excited in the minds of his visitors at the sight of the Tlascalans in his camp, he ordered his allies to remain in camp when he advanced in the morning, and to join him only when he left the city on his way to Mexico.