I once told my mother about a specific incident that occurred in my highschool French class.

Eight years later, she mentions this incident again and this is one of those things that I would have never remembered unless someone else brought it up. Even if I tried my hardest to remember everything that happened in my French class, I would have never remembered this one because frankly, it was so inconsequential to my life.

Is there a word or phrase for this type of memory (where you don't remember something until someone else mentions it)?

  • Memory being the French class incident, or your mother's ability to recall said incident? Commented Sep 19, 2013 at 2:02
  • My memory of the French class incident
    – krikara
    Commented Sep 19, 2013 at 2:28

5 Answers 5


Forgotten memory - memories that are technically still there as signals in your brain, but where you've lost the ability to consciously recall it. They can sometimes be retrieved with aid or certain triggers.

Cued recall is the act of recalling such forgotten memories off a trigger.

The thing that causes you to remember that forgotten memory could be referred to as a memory trigger.

  • I didn't know one can have a forgotten memory XD. The description seems to accurately describe my situation though.
    – krikara
    Commented Sep 19, 2013 at 5:59

I think in this particular situation you should characterize your memory as dormant that can be roused or revived at a later date by a stimulus.

Another apt adjective is latent.

Googling the latter term yielded the following contextually relevant example sentence:

Otherwise we shall be compelled to believe that all our knowledge, all our store of images and memories, all our mental habits, are at all times existing in some latent mental form, and are not merely aroused by the stimuli which lead to their display.

Otherwise in cognitive psychology it is known as cue-dependent forgetting.


People speak of unbidden memories, those memories that flood into your mind spontaneously when evoked by a scent, a taste, a sound, a sight. So perhaps you could call these bidden memories, memories that require someone else mentioning something from the past in order for you to be able to bring it to mind.

  • +1 for digging up 'unbidden memories', but it should be pointed out that to bid means to summon, to invite; therefore, 'bidden memories' doesn't work, as they don't really get invited, because one isn't even aware of their existence until she or he is recalled to them by something (or someone).
    – Talia Ford
    Commented Sep 19, 2013 at 9:19
  • @Talia Ford, I respectfully disagree that it "doesn't work." You are prompted to remember a memory by another's bidding.
    – JLG
    Commented Sep 19, 2013 at 12:59
  • Hm, yeah.. Well, you're right if that phrase was coined as implying any agent of the bidding. But I really don't know whether it was or not.
    – Talia Ford
    Commented Sep 19, 2013 at 19:47

Superior biographical memory or hyperthymesia is the common medical term.

Hyperthymesia - a condition in which an individual possesses a superior autobiographical memory, meaning he or she can recall the vast majority of personal experiences and events in his or her life. The term “hyperthymesia" is derived from the Greek words hyper meaning "excessive" and thymesis meaning "remembering".

Photographic memory can be used too. Although it is common to refer to it as remember everything you see you can also use it for other areas and it keeps the same meaning.

  • 3
    Nice word. However, I think the OP is looking for a word that describes a memory you had 'forgotten' yet will remember as soon as someone mentions it while hyperthymesia refers to an extremely good memory.
    – terdon
    Commented Sep 19, 2013 at 3:28

An ecphorized memory

Ecphorize (also ecphore) [fr. Gk ekphoros, (to be) made known] /EK fur ize/ Psychol. to evoke or revive an engram (an emotion, a memory, or the like) by means of a stimulus


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