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[in-ef-uh-buh l] /ɪnˈɛf ə bəl/
incapable of being expressed or described in words; inexpressible:
ineffable joy.
not to be spoken because of its sacredness; unutterable:
the ineffable name of the deity.
Origin of ineffable
late Middle English
First recorded in 1400-50; late Middle English word from Latin word ineffābilis. See in-3, effable
Related forms
ineffability, ineffableness, noun
ineffably, adverb
2. unspeakable. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for ineffable
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • There was an ineffable mingling of love and sorrow on the sweet countenance.

    Wilfrid Cumbermede George MacDonald
  • "There is nothing anywhere," says a memorandum from the ineffable Devine.

  • My children, it is Iris, our lost daughter, our ineffable messenger.

    Hypolympia Edmund Gosse
  • Then she died, and there was a look of ineffable peace upon her face.

    Bob, Son of Battle Alfred Ollivant
  • He threw up his hands in ineffable scorn, and shuffled away into the house.

    The Night Riders Ridgwell Cullum
  • The air smelled sweet in the shade of the tamarisk; there was ineffable peace.

    The Patrician John Galsworthy
  • There is the highest freedom in this because it proceeds from interior affection, and is conjoined with ineffable delight.

    The Gist of Swedenborg Emanuel Swedenborg
British Dictionary definitions for ineffable


too great or intense to be expressed in words; unutterable
too sacred to be uttered
indescribable; indefinable
Derived Forms
ineffability, ineffableness, noun
ineffably, adverb
Word Origin
C15: from Latin ineffābilis unutterable, from in-1 + effābilis, from effārī to utter, from fārī to speak
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for ineffable

late 14c., from Old French ineffable (14c.) or directly from Latin ineffabilis "unutterable," from in- "not, opposite of" (see in- (1)) + effabilis "speakable," from effari "utter," from ex- "out" (see ex-) + fari "speak" (see fame (n.)). Plural noun ineffables was, for a time, a jocular euphemism for "trousers" (1823). Related: Ineffably.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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