Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

What word would describe someone who doesn't generally leave much of an impression on people?

share|improve this question
36  
I probably wouldn't call them anything, since I wouldn't remember who you're talking about.... ;-) –  Hellion Aug 9 '11 at 21:48
2  
How about Mr. Cellophane? –  mattdwen Aug 10 '11 at 3:40
    
Somehow related reading. –  nico Aug 10 '11 at 9:28
2  
It's hard to remember words like that - they don't leave very much of an impression... –  Franz Aug 10 '11 at 10:12
1  
@Hellion: very good point. Perhaps that's why no one word carries this precise meaning. –  Ferdia O'Brien Aug 10 '11 at 13:29
add comment

19 Answers 19

up vote 45 down vote accepted

"Bland" or "nondescript". Both have a connotation of not being memorable.

Of course, you could just go with "forgettable."

share|improve this answer
2  
Bland isn't bad at all, though as I've said in another comment, I think "nondescript" strikes a better cord with what I was going for. –  Ferdia O'Brien Aug 9 '11 at 21:21
1  
Looking at the times answered you seem to be the first to say "nondescript", and given how well "bland" also fits I'll give you the tick. –  Ferdia O'Brien Aug 9 '11 at 21:46
4  
What if they left a lasting impression of being bland? –  AttackingHobo Aug 9 '11 at 22:39
2  
Would you bother to remember that? :-p –  chaosys Aug 9 '11 at 23:21
6  
+1 for forgettable. –  msh210 Aug 10 '11 at 20:33
show 4 more comments

'Unremarkable' comes to mind. As does 'unimpressive.'

share|improve this answer
4  
+1 for unremarkable –  Unreason Aug 10 '11 at 12:21
add comment

Simply "forgettable" or "unmemorable" could work. I quite like "nondescript" too, for someone or something without any distinctive qualities.

share|improve this answer
1  
Nondescript! That is definitely in te region that I was heading towards. –  Ferdia O'Brien Aug 9 '11 at 21:19
1  
“Unmemorable” and “forgettable” both seem excellent to me. You could even kick it up to the deliciously snarky cliché “eminently forgettable”. –  PLL Aug 9 '11 at 21:42
2  
+1 for forgettable. –  msh210 Aug 10 '11 at 20:34
add comment

I'd suggest such a person would be called a nonentity.

share|improve this answer
1  
Not bad at all. I'll give you the tick if no one has any better suggests soon :). I'd up vote you but I need 15 reputation. –  Ferdia O'Brien Aug 9 '11 at 21:04
10  
+1 for nonentity, but (if you agree with me) you might add that people whose vocabulary doesn't stretch that far are quite prone to call a nonentity a nobody. –  FumbleFingers Aug 9 '11 at 21:11
    
While I think this is clever, I think it bears too much of an emotional impact to be used in normal conversation. Calling someone a nonentity feels more like you are saying they literally don't exist...vs. describing them as someone who doesn't leave a lasting or significant impression. I think the selected answers "nondescript" is probably the best term, as it doesn't leave any question as to the persons existence...just their impression. –  jrista Aug 14 '11 at 2:51
add comment

Not quite an answer to the question, but "milquetoast" is a wonderful related word.

share|improve this answer
add comment

A person who is easily overlooked is often called a "wallflower", although that term has other connotations as well.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I'm not sure whether this applies to or makes sense in English. But the question reminded me instantly of a Japanese word. We call an unimpressive person Kagega Usui hito (影が薄い人) meaning person with thin shadow. The person doesn't have his presence even on his own shadow!

share|improve this answer
add comment

A Nobody, or as the Beatles might say "Nowhere Man" (check out the lyrics)

share|improve this answer
add comment

If I was was being poetic, I would call them "ephemeral" as in short-lived.

share|improve this answer
add comment

People who leave no lasting impression are shallow.

(Both literally and figuratively.) :)

share|improve this answer
add comment

A number of years ago I came across this book The Lexicon of Intentionally Ambiguous Recommendations: Positive-Sounding References for People Who Can't Manage Their Own Sock Drawers

Depending on your needs, it could be useful, e.g.

  • The impression s/he conveys to others is no act
  • He was with our firm a few years back, but I can't remember the dates he worked for us
  • I can't remember ever hearing a colleague complain about her work
  • I can't begin to tell you what a fine person she is.

To be more direct, perhaps I could suggest:

  • forgettable
  • unimpressive
share|improve this answer
add comment

A person that doesn't leave much of an impression on people is commonly considered dull.

share|improve this answer
add comment

"Potato" comes to my mind. But you could flair them up by thinking of Mr/Mrs Potato head instead. After all people are not boring, it is our mind that makes them so.

share|improve this answer
add comment

A few more ideas.

  • uncharacteristic
  • unimpressive
  • unnoteworthy

Depending upon the context, forgettable may be the best choice.

share|improve this answer
add comment

"Ordinary" was one of my first thoughts.

share|improve this answer
add comment

The term colorless, in its sense "Lacking in interest or variety", sometimes is used to describe a person lacking in distinctive features or attributes.

Everyman, "the archetypical ordinary individual", is occasionally used too, as well as terms like Joe Average and Mr. Average.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Such a person could be described as an extra.

share|improve this answer
add comment

"Boring" comes to mind for me.

share|improve this answer
3  
I tend to remember people who fall under that catagory to insure I'm not subjected to it again. I'm trying to get a word for someone who is neither boring nor interesting. –  Ferdia O'Brien Aug 9 '11 at 21:04
    
Good point. In that case, I really like @chaosys' suggestion of "bland." (Funny thing -- I will probably remember "bland" somewhat vividly now!) –  Randolf Richardson Aug 9 '11 at 22:01
    
-1: boring people are generally memorable –  nico Aug 10 '11 at 9:25
1  
@Randolf: I also downvoted potato if that makes you feel better. I just don't like downvoting 3 answers at once (also because the SO system does not like serial downvoting). Dull has a slightly different acception, IMO, as it can also mean indistinct and muffled, although probably not referring to a person. –  nico Aug 11 '11 at 9:18
1  
@Randolf: no problem at all –  nico Aug 12 '11 at 6:07
show 5 more comments

I'd actually prefer the term transient.

share|improve this answer
3  
That word often means "a homeless person", so probably isn't what you want to say. –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Aug 10 '11 at 16:27
    
Although it means 'for a brief time', in most legal situations, it effectively means mobile or doesn't maintain a fixed location. eg, 'transient merchants', 'transient workers' (aka migrant labor). It suggests more that the person doesn't stay, rather than the memory of them doesn't persist. –  Joe Aug 12 '11 at 16:01
    
I never use the term for a homeless person. I've always used it to mean for a short time.... ie no trace left behind –  Preet Sangha Aug 13 '11 at 7:14
1  
Transient means that the person is going to disappear soon. "Adjective: Lasting only for a short time; impermanent." (Your memory of the person may be transient, but the person is probably not transient.) –  ShreevatsaR Aug 15 '11 at 17:24
add comment

protected by waiwai933 Jan 11 '12 at 21:48

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.