Have you ever experienced something so incomprehensible that the only words you could muster up go something like, “There are simply no words to describe?” Or: Have you ever tried to name or define an object or concept and discovered that nothing in that dictionary you carry around in your skull matches? Well, there’s a word for that: ineffability.
Derived from the Latin ineffabilis, meaning “unutterable,” from in-“not” and effari “utter,” ineffable is defined as an “inability to describe in words” or “too sacred to be uttered.” Perhaps it’s an overwhelming feeling of love, a work of art, something online, or something we can’t even imagine. We’ve all found ourselves wrapped in voiceless bewilderment, unable to find the words to properly express that inexpressible something.
We’re secure enough to admit that even the dictionary has limits, and we’ve decided to experiment with those boundaries of ineffability. In the comments below, share a specific example where you could not find words to describe your emotion, concept, object, condition – you name it. Also, if you read someone else’s comment and think of an existing word that you feel does describe the ineffable example, share it as well. Let’s expand the power of words and help each other in the process. Dictionary.com editors will occasionally highlight examples and perhaps contribute suggestions. We can’t wait to learn from all of you.
So far your suggestions have been wonderful:
@VEllisonne on twitter writes: “When I found myself in the middle of a dangerous situation but was completely calm and alright with the whole thing.” Perhaps “imperturbation” works here.
Let’s keep this going…
Ann Hopps Morgan suggests: “Seeing the 3,500 year old tomb of Nefertari in Luxor, Egypt.”
And Kathie Wallis stumped us with: “The moment when irony and coincidence bring a truth to you out of nowhere; when you realize the world is not as you were living it. As if the dimensional plane you are standing in suddenly shifts, just a bit, leaving you disoriented and the world around you is forever changed.”
The suggestions keep rolling in and we are thrilled with what we’re reading.
Liongrrrrl offered the following scenario: “I can’t figure out how to put certain facial expressions to words, like when someone says something sarcastic to another person and that person gives them a *look*, where they blink kind of long and stare at them, maybe pursing their lips or folding their arms. I can’t figure that one out.” To which one reader suggested: moue.
Chacho is looking for a word to describe the following: “A smell that I don’t recognize; either really good, bad or just plain wierd.”
Thanks for all your comments. Keep them coming!