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I want to tell a colleague of mine I'm doing something that will prevent her from getting "ununderstandable" errors. I have:

...so that you will not get unnecessary, [ununderstandable] errors.

After googling "ununderstandable", I see that there is no such word, but I'm still looking for something that sounds better.

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Surely, that would be "Derstandable"! (j/k) – Kaz Dragon May 24 '11 at 17:06
@KazDragon +Your joke was ununderstandable to many here. – Kris Oct 2 '12 at 8:27
Overstandable.. – Ciro Santilli 巴拿馬文件 六四事件 法轮功 Apr 15 at 20:32

13 Answers 13

up vote 47 down vote accepted

How about incomprehensible or unfathomable?

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Incomprehensible is the one. – Claudiu Oct 14 '10 at 20:17
Incomprehensible is the first one that came to me as well. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Oct 15 '10 at 15:17
Incomprehensible is good, as so is the second, though it should be reserved for stronger cases. – Noldorin Jan 22 '11 at 20:38

I prefer unintelligible.

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Enigmatic, abstruse, obscure or cabalistic sound good to me.

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To be honest, I already sent the mail, but I'll definitely use "obscure" next time. Thanks a lot. – Oren A Oct 14 '10 at 15:24

...so that you will not get unnecessary cryptic error messages.

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cryptic is ununderstandable to many. – Kris Oct 2 '12 at 8:26

My recommendations are:

  • difficult-to-understand or impossible-to-understand
  • opaque
  • obtuse
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I suppose indecipherable will be an acceptable replacement.

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How about hyphenation: non-understandable?

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I googled it, and here it is in the Urban Dictionary.


un·un·der·stand·a·ble {uhn-uhn-der-stan-duh-buhl}


incapable of being understood, failing to be understood correctly.

My Commentary:

I LOVE some of the answers. What a cool sight. The English language continues to evolve. Every year new grammar rules are created. To this board of Deciders I would suggest that if a word is google-able, then it should be able to be published. I guess it is ultimately the author's choice, depending on what is being writ. I am also of the kind of wordsmith [get-sic] that Likes to makeUp rules and Words.

"Being brain injured, the challenges we face are inexplicable, or at least, ununderstandable."

blog entry essay with "UNUNDERSTANDABLE"

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I've just stumbled upon this having had cause to research the word myself.

It's not something that I'd use myself as I think it sounds clumsy and, as has already been demonstrated here, there are better alternatives. But, I'd argue that it is a perfectly valid word.

An ngram viewer search shows it (and 'ununderstood') in use for the last 200 years with many of the examples coming from some fairly heavyweight sources. Schopenhauer is a name that springs out from the list as a user.

For me though, the OED is the ultimate arbitrator in questions of legitimate usage:

ununderstandable, adj.

a1631 J. Donne Serm. (1958) IX. 51 Let him have known..In-intelligibilia, In-investigabilia, (as Tertullian speakes) un-understandable things, unrevealed decrees of God.

a1843 R. Southey Common-place Bk. (1849) 2nd Ser. 251/2 The vile and ununderstandable Machabeo he ranks with Homer and Virgil!

1872 B. Brierley Cotters of Mossburn xxiv. 252 There is something very ‘ununderstandable’ going on between Luke Brundrett and Miss Louisa Gerrard.

1891 H. Herman His Angel 46 He stammered a few un-understandable words.

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How about abstract? If you look at: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abstract Under full definition and in part b, it talks about how abstract means difficult to understand.

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different meaning: "can be misunderstood" isn't "can't be understood". – TimLymington May 18 '11 at 20:32
While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. – tchrist Aug 19 '12 at 4:38

The word ununderstandble is noted in Wiktionary though!

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I personally never cite Wiktionary because there are huge gaps in their scholarship. You can't conclude anything from the existence of this entry. A good starting point for reputable references is OneLook.com (but it also links to some unreliable references such as Urban Dictionary). – MετάEd Mar 25 '13 at 23:48

protected by tchrist Jul 7 '14 at 0:02

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