I'm looking for a single word, possibly ending in "-consciously", that represents doing something socially common that you were not aware had a name or a greater context.

For example, many people have played Huckle buckle beanstalk (the hotter or colder finding things game) without knowing the name or thinking that it is even considered a game.

Someone learning the term for the first time might say "I've subconsciously played that game with my friends for years." But that's not quite right since they were consciously engaging in the activity, they just didn't know it was a proper game.

Is there a word that can replace subconsciously?

(I know that something like "I've never heard that term but I've been playing that with my friends for years" would also work, but I feel it could be shorter.)

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    I don't have a word for this, but a classic example is Moliere's play The Bourgeois Gentleman, where Mr. Jourdain is delighted to learn that he knows how to speak prose and has in fact been speaking it his whole life. The phenomenon you speak of is the subject of that comic exchange. – Drew Sep 6 '14 at 1:50
  • I suppose it's possible that someone never played the hot and cold game as a game in their childhood. For many others of us, I think it's just so long ago that we don't remember playing it and only faintly remember that it was a game--but we do recall that this is a "thing." We simply don't know all the names that other people have given to that thing. On the other hand, "speaking prose" is a thing one might have done without ever having been conscious that it was a "thing" at all (and not just "speaking"). – David K Sep 6 '14 at 13:19

I thought of unknowingly when I read your post.

From The Free Dictionary:

unknowingly - without knowledge or intention; "he unwittingly deleted the references"

Synonyms: inadvertently, unwittingly

  • I thought of this too and it does fit well. The problem is that you were knowingly playing the hotter-colder game, you just didn't know it had a real name. – Calvin's Hobbies Sep 6 '14 at 6:06
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    Consider the other answer hidden here - unwittingly - that's the word that sprang to mind when I read the question. – James Sep 6 '14 at 8:31
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    @Calvin'sHobbies "I have been unknowingly playing the HuckleBuckle game for years...." or "I have played the Hot-Cold game for years, without knowing that it is called HuckleBuckle" I think that your meaning is approximately clear. (?) – 0MM0 Sep 6 '14 at 12:12
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    @Calvin'sHobbies Yes, you were knowingly playing the hotter-colder game, but unknowingly playing Huckle Buckle Beanstalk. If you do something unconsciously, you don't realize you are doing something. If you do something unknowingly, you don't realize what it is that you are doing. – augurar Sep 7 '14 at 8:28

Also consider unconsciously. From en.wiktionary, it means “In a subconscious manner; something done unknowingly”.

Note that subconscious has multiple senses, ie both “below the level of consciousness” and “partially conscious”, neither of which is right for the question's situation. The latter part of unconsciously's definition, “something done unknowingly”, certainly applies.

Also consider the collocation all unawares, meaning completely unaware. In addition, a case might be made for using the term supra-consciously. From en.wiktionary, supra- means “above, over, on top” or “greater than, transcending”. People who offer hints of hotter or colder know quite well what they are doing, but are above looking about for a name for the activity.

  • Partially conscious seems to fit, actually. They were conscious of the activity but not of its name. – Wlerin Sep 6 '14 at 2:06
  • @Wlerin No, "subconscious" suggests they "knew" the name at some level but where not consciously aware of it. – augurar Sep 7 '14 at 2:23
  • @augurar It can suggest that, but it may not mean that: The word is older than the psychological concept of the subconscious mind. If the meaning of being partly or imperfectly aware of a thing is intended, then it fits the OP's question. In fact, subconsciously fits even better than unconsciously, since the latter seems to admit no partial awareness. – Wlerin Sep 7 '14 at 8:25
  • @Wlerin No, they were fully conscious of the action, and not at all conscious of the term. They were not partly conscious of either thing. – augurar Sep 7 '14 at 8:31
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    "Unawares" is good. "Unconscious" (and, frankly, "subconscious") are a problem in general because they get easily and unwittingly embroiled in thorny networks of critical theory terminology. – SAH Nov 25 '15 at 9:56

The first word that came to mind for me was intuitively.

See intuition at dictionary.com:

direct perception of truth, fact, etc., independent of any reasoning process; immediate apprehension.

This would cover the aspect of knowing how to play the game without ever really thinking about it. As mentioned previously, unknowingly covers the aspect of doing it without realising.


coincidental : a situation in which events happen at the same time in a way that is not planned or expected

Resulting in,

"I've coincidentally played that game with my friends for years."

  • IMO, coincidentally would not be used in that way. However: “By happenstance, I've played that game with my friends for years” or “As it happens, I've played that game with my friends for years” – James Waldby - jwpat7 Sep 7 '14 at 15:10

A word you could try is "unwittingly."



It's his proclivity to think of himself first.

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    Welcome to ELU. Could you provide a bit more evidence for this as an answer to the original question? Your contribution would be more useful if you could provide relevant references or definitions to support your suggestion. – JHCL Oct 11 '15 at 14:36

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