Is there a single word which means “Seeing the Unseen”?

Imagine one needs special equipment or accessories (for example, a microscope, telescope, or periscope) to see something that otherwise is not seen with the naked eye. What is the act of “seeing the unseen” called?

  • Seeing it and having missed seeing it seem contradictory. Do you want a word for seeing something that is difficult to see or for not seeing it? The latter could be simply overlooking it.
    – oerkelens
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 7:14

7 Answers 7


What you're describing is vision augmentation (or the augmentation of vision) by technological means.

The telescope and the microscope are tools for (optical) magnification; a periscope transforms the image through simultaneous magnification and reflection (which may actually also apply to telescopes and microscopes).

I don't believe that kind of transformation can be described using an equally straightforward term.


You could use the word "unobservable" in this case.

Whilst I could see the dog, its fleas were unobservable.


He could see the river but the fish in it were unobservable.

Or how about "not discernible":

I could see the rainbow but, through the rising fog, the colours were not discernible.

Or perhaps "not visible" or "invisible".

From up here, I could see the leaves but the ants were not visible.


As pointed out by @Ste, there isn't a single word that directly translates to the use of technology to see something which is otherwise unseeable.

The phrase "Seeing the Unseen" does carry some context, though - it evokes the idea of the supernatural, and being able to see things which are outside of human perception.

In any case, you might be able to use descry:

  1. to discover; perceive; detect. Dictionary.com

As your interest is pertinent to something ocular.

My cadidates are as follows:

1) unseeable:

not seeable: invisible

she gazed out over the mango trees, as if at some distant, unseeable tinder mangoes

2) unnoticeable:

not worthy or likely to be noticed : not noticeable

a tiny unnoticeable black mark on elephant OR the reverberation will be so slight as to be unnoticeable

3) inconspicuous

not readily noticeable

left an inconspicuous scratch on the wall

Or, if you want to sound like Sheldon Copper from Big Bang Theory, then try

: Not perceptible to neocortex


Scope (The Free Dictionary by Farlex) is the word that comes closest to your meaning and that I could find for seeing something and/or examining or evaluating something with the aid of a machine or an instrument. Though in the definition "unseen" word was not seen.

Scope (The Free Dictionary by Farlex) 1. To examine or investigate, especially visually: scoped the landscape for signs of wildlife. 2. To examine using an optical instrument such as a telescope or an endoscope: scoped the stars around Orion; scoped the patient's esophagus.

  • You should include an authoritative dictionary definition (and link) for your selected word. Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 11:57
  • Please edit your answer so that it follows our Help Center's guidance on how to reference work by others. We are not a link farm, and a bare unattributed link does no one any good. Our reuse licence allows for plain-text reuse, and so the link would be lost if not given in actual text.
    – tchrist
    Commented Sep 27, 2022 at 15:07
  • Provided link, name of source and meaning if word/words is not in common use
    – banuyayi
    Commented Sep 27, 2022 at 15:32

Not exactly seeing the unseen: scoop. more towards your example: insight.


The made-to-order word for this concept is "imagination" -- i.e., the process wherein the thought becomes the image.

  • The question is specifically about seeing something real but normally unobservable to the naked eye. Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 10:02

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