What word would describe the quality of not being self-aware?

  • unselfaware
  • unself-aware
  • un-selfaware
  • un-self-aware
  • non-self-aware

I am aware that it is allowed to have multiple hyphens in a word. However, the Oxford English Dictionary lists self-aware as a hyphenated word, whilst unaware is not. Therefore, I am unsure which of these options to choose. Or perhaps there is a better word?

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    Also closely related (albeit in the context of combinations of three components that exist as whole, freestanding word, as opposed to one or more prefixes and whole words in combination): english.stackexchange.com/questions/208443/… – Sven Yargs Jan 2 '15 at 8:29
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    Incidentally, though "un-self-aware" has three word pieces stitched together with hyphens, it is an example of double hyphenation, not triple hyphenation. For the latter, you'd need something like "un-self-aware-seeming." – Sven Yargs Jan 2 '15 at 8:33
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    The word itself, regardless of spelling, is quite bizarre and jarring to me. If unaware is the opposite of aware, the opposite of self-aware would surely be self-unaware? Not that that's much better, but it is at least a bit easier to parse to me. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 2 '15 at 13:32
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    By the way I protest against this question being robotically marked as a duplicate. I have read the alternate questions suggested, and they DO NOT answer this question AT ALL. – Stewart Jan 3 '15 at 12:14
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    I kind of favor "clueless". – Hot Licks Apr 23 '15 at 18:05

Perhaps something along the lines of "oblivious"? "Words" with two hyphens are monstrosities, in my opinion.

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    One could be hypercritical of others while unaware of their own behaviour. Oblivious fails to make that distinction. – 200_success Jan 2 '15 at 20:12
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    @200_success, yes, good point, I agree: oblivious loses that possible, but important, meaning. This may well be a case where the best solution is to recast the sentence to avoid the necessity for "un-self-aware" in the first place. – Dave Mulligan Jan 3 '15 at 9:57

A mystically-inclined friend frequently mentions the opposite condition to being self-aware. He calls it "sleepwalking". But underlying this is the mystic's idea of what self-awareness is, which might not relate to what the OP had in mind.


As recommended by @JanusBahsJacquet in the comments to the question, I chose self-unaware as my word.

For some reason when asking the question, I got stuck mentally, on having the negation prefix come first in the word.


I was just think about this today and ended up referring to the "lack of self-awareness" as it was the only thing that felt right.

That being said, if I had to pick something that was a single compound word that would indicate the exact opposite of self-aware, I would go with self-unaware.

In certain cases, you might find 'conceite' to be a good antonym of self-aware. As in "Conceited people generally lack self-awareness". It's not a perfect opposite, but works in some cases.

Philosophically, we are all self aware, some just more so than others (self-awareness is always > 0 for humans). Someone who is literally not self aware (in the literal sense of literally) wouldn't be a functional human being. As such referring to someone as self-unaware would be hyperbolic at best. Perhaps this is why the Internet doesn't have a solid answer?

  • I agree. Someone could be described as lacking in self-awareness or they could have low self-awareness. – dangph Mar 29 '16 at 3:40
  • 1) I didn't indicate an intention to use the word in an absolute sense. 2) "Conceit" only works in the sense of "arrogant". A person could be unaware of their own skill and competence, and thereby be inappropriately humble - that would not be conceit. – Stewart Mar 29 '16 at 8:04

To think that adjectives like 'self-aware' must remain intact when one is expressing the opposite meaning is a form of grammatical un-sanity or non-sanity, by which I mean insanity.

Those who are aware of themselves are said to be self-aware. Those who are not are said to be lacking self-awareness.


In my view, un-self-aware is the best choice here. It respects the form of the standard spelling of 'self-aware', while avoiding the creation of the puzzling and potentially ambiguous entity, 'unself'. Some people might regard a word with two hyphens as a monstrosity, but I can think of very few situations in which the author of a piece of non-fiction writing would not want clarity of intent to be one of their chief aims, or even the chief aim.

Of course, if you are a writer of fiction or poetry who is playing with the multiple possibilities inherent in an ambiguously spelled word, none of the foregoing applies.

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    @Stewart: the question title would more accurately be "Hyphenation of Triple Compound Words". As for the article you mentioned, I can see why it did not clear the matter up for you. As with many things, hyphenation is subject to change, as well as differences in "house style". The article does make some good points about avoiding awkward juxtapositions such as "antiindustrial". And he discusses at length the oddity of "unself". With that in mind, I would suggest you go with "non-self-aware". – Brian Hitchcock Jan 2 '15 at 10:12

Although, technically the word self-aware or self-awareness is redundant, I think it's been accepted into our lexicon because it underscores the state of being "aware of the truth" as opposed to being in denial. The word "aware" is too vague.

  • >> "technically the word self-aware is redundant." What does that even mean? What is a redundant word? A word that fails to communicate? – Stewart Mar 28 '16 at 10:40

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