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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. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for ineffable
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • There were throes of love within her, of aspiration, of an ineffable delight in being.

    Tiverton Tales Alice Brown
  • To dream that dream, this was the great, the ineffable happiness.

  • There was an ineffable mingling of love and sorrow on the sweet countenance.

    Wilfrid Cumbermede George MacDonald
  • Rut they were all accompanied with an ineffable dignity, and an angelic purity.

    Imogen William Godwin
  • You worship no omnipotent and ineffable essence; you believe in no omnipotent and ineffable essence.

    Vivian Grey Earl of Beaconsfield, Benjamin Disraeli
  • Always he was looking out to the stars, and to the ineffable calm of the sea.

    A Spirit in Prison Robert Hichens
  • ineffable is the union of man and God in every act of the soul.

    Essays, First Series Ralph Waldo Emerson
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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