Is there a word which means whatever you want it to mean? Or has no meaning?

I'm looking for a word which can be used in any situation to describe something in whatever way you want, i.e it's not a word and just fits in to places..., but is there an actual word which does that?

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"Blah", perhaps? –  jxh Aug 19 '14 at 17:58
"When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less." (from Lewis Carroll's The Looking Glass) –  IQAndreas Aug 19 '14 at 21:47
@IQAndreas: I believe that the title you're referring to is Through the Looking Glass. –  Scott Aug 20 '14 at 22:26
Heavily related but NOT a duplicate What colloquial word is used when you don't remember a word ...? –  Mari-Lou A Aug 21 '14 at 6:52
@Mari-LouA: I like Granny Weatherwax's "Wossname." –  Bob Brown Aug 23 '14 at 5:24

I’m looking for a word which can be used in any situation to describe something in whatever way you want, i.e it’s not a word and just fits in to places, but is there an actual word which does that?

There are quite a few, as a matter of fact. The most popular is 'thingamajig' with its many variants (thingamabob, thingummy, thingy, etc.), 'whatchamacallit', 'whaddayacallit'.

A useful neologism is 'gizmo' which should be used only for small, technological objects, but can have a wider usage, more or less like 'contraption', 'gadget', 'widget' etc.

The terms 'foo', 'bar', and 'baz' are meaningless, are used in computing by a small circle of adepts. They are used in listing, like letters: "let's take A, B, C"

For people, you probably know the use of 'Tom Dick and Harry', but remember that 'whatsit' is a magic word that can be used for anything, both for people and objects

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"Widget" is another one. –  Compro01 Aug 19 '14 at 14:33
The Irish equivalent to thingumibob is yoke. –  TRiG Aug 19 '14 at 21:53
technically, these are all nouns and can't replace any part of speech. –  Oldcat Aug 19 '14 at 23:37
@Oldcat the OP asked for a "describing" word, which suggests non-verbs –  Carl Witthoft Aug 20 '14 at 16:02
Do you mean "baz" instead of "faz"? I've never seen the latter. By the way, continuing the list: "qux", "quux", etc. –  Dennis Williamson Aug 20 '14 at 21:57

Well, the first word that comes to mind is smurf.

It can act as just about any word you want, it can be use as a noun, a verb, an adjective, and the meaning is completely open.

Can you smurf that for me?
Who smurfed my smurfs?
What a smurf outfit! You'll attract a lot of smurfs with that!

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I actually, literally, just laughed out loud at this. –  Dan Bron Aug 19 '14 at 13:49
We don't need that smut here. And you smurfing know it! –  Elliott Frisch Aug 19 '14 at 18:28
This was exactly what I thought of when I read the question. The origin of smurf (schtroumph, actually) was a conversation between the author (Peyo) and a friend; he wanted to ask for the salt, but could not remember the word. So he said "please pass the smurf". Reference: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Smurfs –  Floris Aug 19 '14 at 18:39
To me, it seems like it'd be "a smurfy outfit," or "a smurfish outfit." –  Joshua Taylor Aug 19 '14 at 21:32
@JoshuaTaylor — That depends on weather you want to attract smurfs or smurfs... A smurfy outfit would still be acceptable, but a smurfish outfit would be outright smurf! You couldn't pull off a smurfish outfit at any but the smurfiest event. –  oerkelens Aug 20 '14 at 6:34

A term which describes such words is "metasyntactic variable".

The most common metasyntactic variables (in my experience) are "foo", "bar", and (rarely, because the need for a third placeholder is relatively infrequent) "baz". From Wikipedia's article on metasyntactic variables:

When you have to invent an arbitrary temporary name for something for the sake of exposition, FOO is usually used. If you need a second one, BAR or BAZ is usually used;

With that said, I'd counsel you not to overdo it, lest you fall into the trap of Humpty-dumptyism (the practice of insisting that a word means whatever one wishes it to):

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean- neither more nor less."

From Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass

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Well, there's glory for you. –  bye Aug 19 '14 at 14:24
Note that foo, bar, and baz are typically used in noun places. E.g., "I give you this foo." For a verb, "frob" is often used. E.g., "You should frob the foo that I gave you." –  Joshua Taylor Aug 19 '14 at 21:31
@joshuataylor I agree that's the most common usage, if only because nouns occupy the most commonly abstracted category in speech (compare the leading answer's thingamajig, gizmo, whatchamacallit, etc, all very "noun flavored"). But foo, bar, baz do see much wider application than just nouns; in particular, using them for verbs, the second most commonly abstracted concept, is almost as common as their use for verbs (for example, as names for functions [verbs] in a programming context). In fact, thy can be used to stand in for any part of speech, hence metasyntactic: above syntax –  Dan Bron Aug 19 '14 at 21:43
@DanBron Interesting point; in abstract, I wouldn't hesitate to name a function foo, but if I had to talk about it as well, I'd much prefer frob. I'd understand what someone means if they say "then you should foo the bar," but it sounds ungrammatical to me. Even worse would be "you should foo the frob." –  Joshua Taylor Aug 19 '14 at 21:46
OK, it's not technically one word, but I nominate "metasyntactic variable" for meaning whatever you want and simultaneously having no (apparent) meaning. ;) –  Hot Licks Aug 21 '14 at 16:57

Really for the extreme flexibility you're looking for the closest word or phrase that I'm aware of that is in common use is "you know" which can be combined with "what", "who", "what I'm talking about" or a small description for claity.

So yesterday I went to the you know where we usually go and, well, you know who showed up, and he's wearing his typical you know, like, thinks he's so stylish and he's not, and then he pulls out one of those you know new phones and he's acting all like he's so you know, like just because he's got a phone he can just be such a you know what.

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I would start with the word blah. You can replace any bit of speech with "blah, blah, blah." It is often used in a snide way, however, for words that are tedious, or in mockery of another person who won't stop talking.

There are variations as well. I've heard blih, blip, bleh, blipity, and bibity. You can add suffixes as needed too. -ish, -y, and -ed would all work. Actually, any amount of humming and hawing while gesturing like an ape can replace any words. Too many intentional meaningless words, though, and it will just look like gibberish.

After that the wachamacallit's and whosit's and so forth can replace any noun, as was already mentioned.

I would like to bring up the curious usage of the F-word, too. It can be used as pretty much any part of speech with nearly any tone, except maybe reverent. Perhaps, with some clever wording, you could replace words with the F-word and your listeners would still understand you.

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What does this mean, "the F-word" ? We are on a site about language & words. Don't be afraid of words. –  Nicolas Barbulesco Aug 20 '14 at 15:54
@NicolasBarbulesco There is a time to use words and a time for their euphemisms. I don't want to surprise and upset anybody. –  fredsbend Aug 20 '14 at 15:57
He means the kind of use as displayed in reallifeglobal.com/how-use-word-fuck . As they say on that page, if you are going to swear, you should have a high degree of awareness as to what you are communicating and the effect it has on people around you. –  RemcoGerlich Aug 22 '14 at 7:51
I think the F-word can be used reverently. It just depends on context and attitude. –  G Tony Jacobs Aug 23 '14 at 17:51
@NicolasBarbulesco the F-word means whatever you want it to mean - so it is perfect. It could even mean "fuck" if you wanted it to. –  emory Aug 23 '14 at 19:05

If you're in Hawaii, Da Kine is exactly what you're looking for.

But do note, Da Kine is pidgin English.

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What does your note mean ? Da Kine comes from english ? –  Nicolas Barbulesco Aug 21 '14 at 10:28
Why Da Kine has capital letters ? –  Nicolas Barbulesco Aug 21 '14 at 10:29
–  spudone Aug 21 '14 at 16:54

You used some in your question: "something," "whatever," etc., are placeholder words to allow whatever or something to be inserted at the readers discretion.

But actually, the first word that came to my mind was...

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

Which, as Wikipedia notes "According to the film [Mary Poppins (1964), which spawned the popular and exact term here, though variations existed as far back as 1931 according to the article], it is defined as "'something to say when you have nothing to say'".

It is in fact in the Oxford English Dictionary (login required), defined as "A nonsense word" (i.e. a word that has no meaning), though notes that in practice, used by children, "typically expressing excited approbation: fantastic, fabulous."

The word is in fact an adjective, and since it has no meaning, it therefore meets the request that it "describe something in whatever way you want" (though again, in usage it often has an idea of good connotations of "approval"—so the Random House definition on dictionary.com—since the song notes positive aspects experienced by the use of the word).

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The sound of it is something quite atrocious. –  glenatron Aug 21 '14 at 8:58
@glenatron: Indeed, though not all agree with Mary Poppin's and crew's assessment of the word, as this article notes "lexicographer Susie Dent" saying it is "'beautifully crafted in its beat so that once you learn it, it is hard to forget,'" and "Matt Wolf, a theatre critic" that "'There's something about the polysyllabic nature of it that makes you want to move to it. It makes language exciting, it makes words fun.'" But for the OP, it truly is defined as having no meaning. –  ScottS Aug 21 '14 at 12:28
For "something to say when you have nothing to say", just listen to a politician. Or a corporate exec. (Or, of course, an advertisement of any sort.) –  Hot Licks Aug 21 '14 at 16:59

A somewhat English-sounding one that's common in Terry Pratchett novels is wossname.

e.g.:

That's a referential wossname. A gerund. Could be a gerund.

He had a cut all the way across his wossname.

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If we are going with fictional words, Og wins.

Whereas Smurf is always a positive word, and Marklar from South Park is always a noun, Og from The Secret World of Og is every word, except for (according to this random wiki entry) mathematical operators.

I have not read the book so I do not know if the part about mathematical operators is accurate. According to the Wikipedia entry the inhabitants only know one word: "Og!" (EDIT: I suppose operators can exist as such without their being words: Og + Og = Og. But if this is the case, then said word (Og) does not, as the OP asks, stand in for "whatever you want it to mean" unless, in Og, you can express + as a word (plus = Og)).

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Plus one for Marklar... –  Frank Tudor Aug 21 '14 at 14:30
"Hodor!" "Pikachu!" "I am Groot!" –  Blazemonger Aug 22 '14 at 16:47
Oh, those are good, didn't even think of them. I wouldn't count Pikachu, he often uses pikaaaa... for angry/disappointed phrases and Pika Pika! for excited/happy phrases and... well I guess that dichotomy is the entirety of his emotional range in the show. –  JackArbiter Aug 22 '14 at 17:17

I immediately thought of plain old

Thing

• Look at that thing
• I have one of those things
• There's a thing that fixes that
• That thing is on the desk
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I was thinking the word Placeholder could mean anything but it might be limited to just nouns.

Blank is my second choice.

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If you want a word for an indefinite number, there are "umpteen" and "zillion" (for a very big number). Perhaps "n" doesn't count as word, but its ordinal form "nth" is quite often seen, especially in the phrase "to the nth degree". See

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indefinite_and_fictitious_numbers

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I think that the word that might fit the bill. You can use it as a noun:

I want that.


Or disguise it as an adjective:

He looked like that.


Or even take the place of an adjective.

He was pretty.
Yes, sir, that he was.


As commented below, its meaning usually refers to an antecedent, either verbal or non-verbal, but there are plenty of examples in English where the anaphora is left open:

Just like that, he disappeared.
It's too expensive, and probably out-of-date at that.


(ref). Therefore the antecedent can be left as ambiguous as desired. Add to it that the word that has many other uses in English:

He said that it was time.


I find the ambiguity fits the bill of "a word which can be used in any situation to describe something in whatever way you want". Let us see:

We have to agree that Peter was that.
She was doing that. Yes, that. I don't have to say what that is.


And that is that.

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That is a pronoun, so it's true that it's job is to take the place of a noun, but it's always used with an antecedent or at least some sort of (possibly nonverbal) indication of what the speaker intends to refer to. In this question the OP seems to be asking for a placeholder word that can be used without indicating its meaning. Also, that in He looked like that is still a pronoun, not an adjective. –  Caleb Aug 22 '14 at 13:36
The question said "it's not a word and just fits in to places". I will try to improve on the answer. –  alexfernandez Aug 22 '14 at 22:14
Followed by: but is there an actual word which does that? The question could use some work. –  Caleb Aug 23 '14 at 2:54
The word "that" has nothing to do with a particle. –  Nicolas Barbulesco Aug 23 '14 at 21:55
Removed the bit about a particle, replaced by "many uses". –  alexfernandez Aug 24 '14 at 7:36

Hodor. The only word uttered by character known by that name in George R. R. Martin's series of novels A Song of Ice and Fire. See http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Hodor, http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Hodor, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxjw-w-V5k4.

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Dude, an expression of shock, approval, sympathy, or other strong feeling: Dude! That's one expensive sandwich!

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I think that dude means a guy. I would not say "Dude !" to a girl. –  Nicolas Barbulesco Aug 20 '14 at 15:55
@NicolasBarbulesco saying it to a girl is sometimes okay. As an exclamation; not like "hey dude". –  user36720 Aug 20 '14 at 16:21
No exclamation exists that I cannot replace with dude using the proper tone. –  Mazura Aug 20 '14 at 23:20
I challenge you to find the proper tone to say dude to replace something like G*dawfullF*ingSonOfABch! after hitting your finger instead of a nail with that slightly overweight hammer... –  oerkelens Aug 21 '14 at 8:06
Touche, applicable for when it doesn't hurt yet, but you know it will very soon and take forever to heal. Useful for when you do rehab in a working office and shouting expletives is frowned upon. @oerkelens –  Mazura Aug 21 '14 at 22:54

protected by Community♦Aug 20 '14 at 23:48

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