A friend of mine believes that a thought that is underlying, and not the main focus of the mind, can be described as a thought had "unconsciously". I am convinced she is incorrect, and the word to use is "subconsciously".

The word could also refer to an action that is instinctive and not thought through?

Any input as to which (or both) is correct would be appreciated.

  • 3
    Have you tried knocking her unconscious to see what thoughts she has? Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 14:24

2 Answers 2


You are right, 'subconsciously' is the word. It implies something that was not thought of by your active mind, but somewhere behind all the cloudy layers of your mind this thought struck you.

Being unconscious means that you've fainted or passed out, so "I thought of it unconsciously" is wrong.


I believe that at best, 'subconscious' can be replaced with 'unconscious' while preserving meaning. I believe that 'subconscious' is somewhat of a recently made-up superfluous word that describes only a subset of another word, 'unconscious'.

You are correct that 'subconscious' is appropriate, though incorrect in insisting that 'unconscious' is not also correct. ngram


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