I'm fairly certain this has happened to all of us at some point: You go into a room to get something, but once you're there, you can't remember what you intended to get. It seems like a specific, common phenomenon like this must have a name, but I can't think of it. Does anyone know a name (either formal or slang) for this?

I don't want a general term like forgetfulness or absent-mindedness, which could apply to all sorts of forgetting, or a term for not being able to remember a certain word. I'm looking for a word or phrase that describes this one specific situation of forgetting what you need to get as soon as you go to get it.

  • 5
    Alzheimer's, definitely!
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 25 '15 at 21:35
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    – Oldcat
    Mar 25 '15 at 21:36
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    hmmm - as often as it happens, you'd think this group would know it and I hope someone does. My cohorts call it "Sometimers Disease" or CRS-syndrome (for Can't Remember S**T). :-) Mar 25 '15 at 21:45
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    Why would you expect there to be a word? Do you know such a word in any other language? Is there a word for seeing your neighbour in town, but not getting the chance to speak? Or is there a word for a person who has a different swear word for every month of the year, or for someone who eats fish and chips on Thursdays and a pie on a Friday and plays golf on Saturday? These sorts of questions which seem to demand that a word be sought to describe any and every circumstance in life become quite tiresome. Why not use some descriptive creativity?
    – WS2
    Mar 25 '15 at 21:48
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    There is a well-established idiom for thinking of something clever that you could have said earlier but failed to summon to mind in timely fashion: staircase wit. Along the same lines, getting halfway down a staircase and realizing that you don't know why you're there could reasonably be called staircase witlessness.
    – Sven Yargs
    Mar 25 '15 at 23:28

In psychology, it is called doorway effect or location updating effect.

Researchers already know that walking from one space to another makes people more likely to forget tasks when compared to others who don’t make such a transition. Called “location-updating effect” the phenomenon also causes people transitioning between rooms (even virtual ones) to take more time while attempting to recall items from memory.


It happens both in virtual and real environments; and it is explained that leaving a place and entering a new one is served as an event boundary in the mind and memory refreshes itself for the new information.

This “doorway effect” appears to be quite general. It doesn't seem to matter, for instance, whether the virtual environments are displayed on a 66” flat screen or a 17” CRT. In one study, Radvansky and his colleagues tested the doorway effect in real rooms in their lab. Participants traversed a real-world environment, carrying physical objects and setting them down on actual tables. The objects were carried in shoeboxes to keep participants from peeking during the quizzes, but otherwise the procedure was more or less the same as in virtual reality. Sure enough, the doorway effect revealed itself: Memory was worse after passing through a doorway than after walking the same distance within a single room.


  • 4
    I agree, this effect is also called "event boundary effect". Not sure, if it answers the OP's question, being little more wide, than they request, but it`s still the very phenomena's description.
    – Aeternia
    Mar 25 '15 at 21:53
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    @WS2 "institutionalised the condition" Luckily, as an American, I'm not too worried about that eventuality. We don't even bother to institutionalize severe schizophrenics, so me and my forgetful ways should be... ah... um... rhymes with "dine"? Whatever. Mar 25 '15 at 22:51
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    Cool!!! New names for things! Mar 25 '15 at 23:10
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    @WS2 Where does ermanen claim to have been the inventor of the term? Mar 25 '15 at 23:42
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    I've learned something new, and think that the effect is important enough to be given a name. I also think that these names are more appropriate than is sometimes the case. Mar 26 '15 at 9:32

Maybe not applicable to all ages, but it's often called a senior moment.

  • 6
    This is not specific to walking into a room. Mar 25 '15 at 23:39
  • @EdwinAshworth Do we know that there is a condition which is specific to walking into a room?
    – WS2
    Mar 26 '15 at 8:39
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    @WS2 All right, 'This is in no way indicating the tie-in (which ermanen cites evidence of) between change of location and quality of short-term memory'. Though the term 'doorway effect' surely makes complaints that 'walking into a room' may not be used as a transparent metaphor captious. Mar 26 '15 at 9:47

'Destinesia' is an apt word...creative and fitting in one stroke; destination + amnesia

  • 1
    Sounds like a creatively joined word, although you should add a cautionary notice that the word either "doesn't exist yet"/is new, or is on the lower scale of common words. Found some entries for it on Urban dictionary mainly. I like it.
    – Sakatox
    Mar 7 '16 at 10:12
  • Good answers on ELU require supporting references, linked and attributed. UD is not a suitable single source for standard terms. Apr 21 '20 at 16:59

According to The Meaning Of Liff:

Woking (ptcpl.vb.): Standing in the kitchen wondering what you came in here for.

  • Good answers on ELU require supporting references, linked and attributed. UD and The Meaning of Liff are not suitable single sources for standard terms Apr 21 '20 at 17:00

In certain cases, it may be referred to as brain fog or clouding of consciousness.

In relation to this (but not within the specific scoping of the OP), the term used for the equivalent phenomenon – but in a serious medical context – is aMCI (amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment).

  • To clarify, the term itself does not implicitly include "walking into a room" as a criterion. However, as someone who suffers from it due to a medical comorbidity, that exact situation is how it usually occurs a large majority of the time (at least as far as I can remember).
    – Arctiic
    May 29 '20 at 6:42

Disorientation describes the state.

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    This is not specific to walking into a room. Mar 26 '15 at 9:38

AH! Damn! It's at the tip of my tongue...

(Or, at least, it's a related / similar-feeling effect.)

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    This is not specific to walking into a room. Mar 25 '15 at 23:40
  • @EdwinAshworth Mainly, I gave this answer because, even if it's not specific to walking into a room, it's a similar effect, and I anticipated that the same search terms could ostensibly bring someone to this question. Mar 26 '15 at 22:16

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