There are a few words which I blank on quite frequently. Perhaps my "advanced" age has something to do with it. I don't know. One such word for me is euphemism.

There is another word I am blanking on right now. In my answer to this question I also blanked on the same word.

It is a word which describes the power of a quotation, or memorable words, or a theory to stimulate further thought and perhaps research. The word is similar in meaning to prolific, which can denote having the power to generate many further thoughts and ramifications of the original quotation, words, or theory.

If you would be so kind as to supply this word for me and perhaps give me a mnemonic device to make it accessible to me, I'd be very grateful.

  • Its furtherability? expandability? – guifa Aug 14 '14 at 15:54
  • Illuminate? Inspirate? – Ronan Aug 14 '14 at 16:07
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    thought-provoking? – ermanen Aug 14 '14 at 16:10
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    Oh! You must mean legs; if a story has legs, it grows and grows – James Waldby - jwpat7 Aug 14 '14 at 16:24
  • @FumbleFingers: Done. To be honest, I post questions so rarely that I'm not terribly familiar with the protocols in place. Don – rhetorician Aug 15 '14 at 14:57

12 Answers 12


I would such a stimulating quotation is evocative (it evokes other, latent, concepts), suggestive (it suggests other ideas to you), or inspiring (it inspires you).

If you're trying to emphasize the productivity of the word, the sheer amount of other ideas it generates, you might use an agricultural metaphor, such as fertile, fruitful, or fecund (or, even more indirectly, bounteous or plenteous, or as a noun, a real cornucopia).

If you want to underscore that a particular work has already had a significant impact and influence on later works, you could say it is seminal, or, rarer and less strong, germinal.

And finally, scraping the bottom of the synonymic barrel, we have both batful (yes, seriously) and the archaic term uberous:

uberous: fruitful; copious; abundant; plentiful

Which, I guarantee you, is poised for a comeback.

  • You beat me to evocative, drat. – Jasper Locke Aug 14 '14 at 16:17
  • +1 for Fertility, fecundity, fruitfulness (the nouns correspond to the capability sought). – Drew Aug 14 '14 at 16:18
  • Your answer is a list of adjectives which , though interesting, might be of difficult access to OP. The site policy encourages the use of links and adequate reference to support the content of their answers so that OP and others users can easily have access to the information provided. Thanks for your cooperation. – user66974 Aug 14 '14 at 17:13
  • @josh61 OP asked for a synonym for prolific, which is an. adjective, so I correspondingly supplied adjectives. He also asked mnemonics to aid accessibility, and to the extent I could provide those, I did (parenthetical statements, imagery, alliteration, etc). I am familiar with site policy, no need to remind me of it (particularly when such reminders are hypocritical), thank you. – Dan Bron Aug 14 '14 at 18:01
  • @DanBron: You've provided an excellent list, but THE word isn't there. As I've been telling commenters, I'll know it when I see it. Either that, or ten-and-a-half hours from now when I'm drifting off to sleep, it'll come to me. Darn those sometimes unpredictable synapses! Don – rhetorician Aug 14 '14 at 19:31

I would suggest thought-provoking.

interesting in a way that makes you think of new ideas or that changes your attitude to something [macmillandictionary]

stimulating interest or thought

What is most thought-provoking in these thought-provoking times, is that we are still not thinking.
– Martin Heidegger

  • Great synonym, ermanen, but not the one I'm looking for. Gosh, this is frustrating. When I see it, I'll put it on a Post-It note and display it prominently. Better yet, I'll ensconce it behind matte board, frame it, and then screw the frame to the wall in my study. Don – rhetorician Aug 14 '14 at 19:41
  • Is it one of the synonyms? thesaurus.com/browse/thought-provoking – ermanen Aug 14 '14 at 20:51
  • No, it's not. Thank you for the link, by the way. The word I'm searching for is the by-product of a paradigm, I guess. A paradigm which has tremendous explanatory power stimulates further meaningful study and research. Guess my synapses are stuck. Do you think electroshock therapy would help? Don – rhetorician Aug 31 '14 at 13:29
  • See my answer, below. Don – rhetorician Sep 30 '14 at 18:36

I think the term OP is looking for is...

reach noun 3 b. - range or scope of influence or effect. (thefreedictionary.com)

I can't find an actual instance offhand in the book I'm currently reading, but I'm quite certain more than once in David Deutsch's The Beginning of Infinity he makes the point that a "good" theory is one which has extensive reach. Consider this from a review of another of his books...

One feature he notes in explanations is that some are universal: they have unbounded "reach", much greater than the domain they initially described.

  • Good word to remember, but no, it's not the one I'm blocked on. As I've been telling commenters and answerers, I'll know it when I see it. Don – rhetorician Aug 14 '14 at 19:34
  • @rhetorician: Ah well - if you already "know" the word you're looking for (but simply can't call it to mind) I suppose we're all just firing off shots into the dark here. The review page I linked to uses reach five times with this quite specialised sense (of a theory/explanation, that engenders or supports other theories). But two of those five are "in quotes", suggesting not everyone is quite so taken with the usage as myself and Deutsch. – FumbleFingers Aug 14 '14 at 20:05
  • See my answer, below. Don – rhetorician Sep 30 '14 at 18:35

You can describe such a theory as provocative:

Causing discussion, thought, argument, etc.

Note the use of provocative to describe the theories in these articles:

How to test Weinstein's provocative theory of everything

Lab Findings Support Provocative Theory On Cancer 'Enemy' Within

  • Thanks! Good synonym, but not THE one I'm looking for. I'll recognize it when I see it, however. Don – rhetorician Aug 14 '14 at 19:42
  • See my answer, below. Don – rhetorician Sep 30 '14 at 18:35

A rich theory leaves many bright pebbles on the sea shore.

  • I like "rich theory," but I think the word I'm after is a single adjective. I was exposed to it initially in grad school when the discussion in a seminar concerned the ability of a really good theory to generate more and more worthwhile research. Don – rhetorician Aug 14 '14 at 19:37
  • @rhetorician, can you remember anything else about the word? What letter it starts with, maybe? Words it rhymes with? An individual who used it in a famous quote? A textbook that definitely contained it? In this age of the internet, any tiny clue is an exponential improvement. – Dan Bron Aug 15 '14 at 1:47
  • See my answer, below. Don – rhetorician Sep 30 '14 at 18:36

Generative may convey the idea:

  • Adj. 1. generative - having the ability to produce or originate; "generative power"; "generative forces"
  • The OP asked for a synonym for prolific. – Dan Bron Aug 14 '14 at 16:26
  • Thanks! Close, but no cigar. I'll know it when I lay eyes on it. Don – rhetorician Aug 14 '14 at 19:42
  • See my answer, below. Don – rhetorician Sep 30 '14 at 18:37

Perhaps, profuse is the word you're looking for:

(esp. of something offered or discharged) exuberantly plentiful; abundant

  • See my answer, below. Don – rhetorician Sep 30 '14 at 18:38

The catalytic theory inspired dozens of researchers.

Einstein's controversial theories still prompt new discoveries today.

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    I like this a lot! But perhaps, since "catalytic" is usually only used in scientific contexts, and therefore there's a risk that "catalytic theory" would be taken to mean "a theory on or about catalysts" (that is, a theory dealing with catalysts), for the sake of describing a theory which is itself a catalyst (that is: stimulating, rich, etc), we'd prefer the wording "catalysing theory"? – Dan Bron Aug 15 '14 at 12:29
  • See my answer, below. Don – rhetorician Sep 30 '14 at 18:37

I'm not sure if my answer will reach the good people who proffered their answers to my question, but having come across by accident today the word I was looking for, I must needs lay it on ya'll. The word is


Rest assured I've written the word on a piece of paper and have taped it to the visible side of the filing cabinet next to my desk, where it will remain in perpetuity.

My apologies to those of you answerers who think the word heuristic doesn't match the definition I included in my question.

By the way, I'm still open to your suggested mnemonic devices to help cement the word within my cerebral cortex.

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    I suppose it's a bit of a cheek to downvote what you obviously "know" is the word you were looking for, but check this out. Most people wouldn't even understand your usage, because heuristic is now so common in the computing "trial and error" sense. But that "derives" from the "unstructured" sense as used in educational contexts anyway. If you don't like reach, I think you need something like productive. – FumbleFingers Sep 30 '14 at 18:47
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    I only knew the computing usage until I found Educational: Of or relating to an educational method or resource that enables students or children to learn by making discoveries for themselves, rather than being directed in OED yesterday. But today I just searched Google Books for "a heuristic theory" and found A heuristic theory, in contrast to a nomological one, appeals to our knowing how to go about in the world. Forcing me to look up... – FumbleFingers Oct 1 '14 at 17:46
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    nomological = nomothetic Of or relating to the study or discovery of general scientific laws. I'd have thought the implication is that nomological/nomothetic theories are the ones that lead to further theories, because they're based on general principles, not context-specific ones. – FumbleFingers Oct 1 '14 at 17:49
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    I just made a meaningless edit to your answer so I could retract my downvote. On reflection I think I'm not really qualified to have an opinion of the merits of heuristic here (but I resolutely defend reach as exceptionally relevant). – FumbleFingers Oct 1 '14 at 19:17
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    Heuristic seems to match the definition in the OP exactly. Granted, it's used far more often in a slightly different (albeit related) sense, but it fits nevertheless. – Wlerin Oct 1 '14 at 20:07

Sagacious and gnostic are appropriate for most knowledge-based sentiments, though really, this question seems thoroughly answered.

  • Thanks for pitching in. I appreciate the collegial, concerted collaboration. Don. P.S. Welcome to the site. Feel free to contribute. If you have any questions about the site's modus operandi, you can always go to EL&U Meta. – rhetorician Oct 1 '14 at 20:21
  • I appreciate the welcome and advice. Sidenote: I love your name. – L. Alexandra Oct 2 '14 at 21:49

People have been using Mind-blowing for Neil deGrasse Tyson’s work on Cosmos "A space time Odyssey"


  • Thanks for your answer, and welcome to Stack Exchange EL&U. Come on in; the water's fine. Don – rhetorician Oct 2 '14 at 2:10

I think the word productive closely matches what you are looking for. Note its uses here, here, and here. If you search Google Books for "very productive theory" you can find many more examples.

The term is in wide academic use with this sense (the sense of being generative, broadly applicable, and useful in a variety of cases, and of lending itself to further research).

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