What do you call objects, or kinds of objects, that cannot be described without visual aids?

  • 3
    Them's fightin' words here. People who pride themselves on their ability with language feel they can describe just about anything.
    – Robusto
    Mar 4, 2011 at 22:11
  • The only objects I can think of that MUST have a visual aid are those that can ONLY be experienced visually. With that in mind, I suspect that the set objects that cannot be described without visual aids is limited to 'color'.
    – oosterwal
    Mar 4, 2011 at 22:22
  • 1
    Argh! "can't" and "without" together are melting my comprehension! Mar 4, 2011 at 22:22
  • Is this the same as "What must you describe with a picture?" or visually? Mar 4, 2011 at 22:25
  • 2
    To clarify my earlier comment--How could you describe the color blue to a blind person? Of course for a blind audience visual aids wouldn't be any more useful than words...
    – oosterwal
    Mar 5, 2011 at 2:30

5 Answers 5


There is a phrase "beyond words", but it is not usually used for objects, more for emotions or situations.

Oops, logic has just given me a good kick - if there was a word for such objects, then such objects would cease to fall into this category. ;-)

Of course, there are words like "thing", "nondescript", "thingamajig", "visual", "spectacle", "sensory" and "picturesque", and phrases like "to be seen".


A pretty word for things that cannot be expressed in words is ineffable, but if it's describable with a picture, it doesn't feel ineffable. Unless you're talking about qualia. An example would be helpful.

  • One of my writing teachers said the use of ineffable was an admission of failure. I asked him how could judge his statement to be a success, in that case. :)
    – Robusto
    Mar 5, 2011 at 18:09

Well, I suppose I would call them indescribable.

  • Have you no self-respect? You need to see my comment under the OP's question. By the way, I have a self-esteem program for writers, six weeks for only $500. (Kidding! About all of it!)
    – Robusto
    Mar 5, 2011 at 1:03

Anything related to the senses, that the person you are describing to has not experienced.

A good example would be explaining colour to someone who is blind or trying to describe a sunset.

Being able to explain physical feelings such as touch, to someone who has never been able to physically feel objects, imagine trying to explain something being smooth or abrasive. If the person has no frame of reference then words are just words.


Highly technical descriptions of motion or construction are theoretically possible with words but it will end up feeling like you are using the wrong tool for the job. For example: Blue-prints for a warehouse or instructions on how to put together a truck engine both benefit greatly from visual aids.

With regards to the logical trick mentioned by Lee, you can easily describe an idea of an object without referring directly to the object itself. The concept of an indescribable thing is alive and well and we can freely talk about it without describing it.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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