English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I came across the word "nonlesson" used in a research paper which talks about lessons learned from some incidents. I searched on Google but I wasn't able to find a meaning or usage of this word.

I'd like to know if such a word exists, and if it does, also its meaning with a short usage hint.

Please help.

share|improve this question

closed as general reference by Carlo_R., FumbleFingers, tchrist, MετάEd, Robusto Dec 14 '12 at 1:37

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

It's a simple negation. In the context of "lessons learned" it would mean either (1) a lesson that was not learned (i.e, a repeated mistake) or (2) something that was thought to be a lesson, but was not (i.e, an erroneous conclusion). – John Lawler Dec 13 '12 at 22:15
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Even if you don't find the particular word in a dictionary, a "NonXXXX" is invariably something which superficially looks like (often, was supposed to be) an XXXX, but missing with some (usually, essential) characteristic. I would say it's a "productive" way of generating new words.

Probably the primary characteristic of lessons is that they are learned. So in the absence of any further context, I'd interpret a nonlesson as something "intended" to impart knowledge, but which fails to do so for some reason.

I rule out the possibility that the lesson wasn't learned because the student failed to pay attention, because that's not necessarily a fault of the [non]lesson itself. But I can't really speculate on why OP's particular nonlesson is thus labelled.

share|improve this answer
This is the second time today that people didn’t understand about productive affixes, getting themselves in a snit because they couldn’t find a perfectly reasonable derived word in a dictionary. I don’t understand the confusion. – tchrist Dec 13 '12 at 23:21
@tchrist: I assume it's just that non-native speakers don't necessarily get taught about currently "productive" variations. They might very well be explicitly taught (or even, just notice) historical forms, but since these vastly outnumber the productive ones, they'd soon get pulled up if you habitually tried to make use of that knowledge to create new forms (most of which would be immediately rejected by native speakers). – FumbleFingers Dec 13 '12 at 23:36

Nonlesson isn't slang or jargon and most people reading it are going to be counting context to get the meaning. It is just a way of something "something that isn't a lesson." You'd only use this expression if you were drawing a comparison to a lesson. There are two main instances I'm seeing where this is used, the first appearing more common.

1) An explicitly non-formal situation; play-time as opposed to classroom time.

e.g. Even in a nonlesson setting, kids at school learn a lot just from being with other kids

2) A piece of knowledge or an experience that is either misleading/innacurate or not useful by its nature.

e.g. What followed was an incredibly thorough (and unrequested) nonlesson of the differences between the two games.

share|improve this answer

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