What's the word for "no word for"?

I've really been trying to find it, but I just can't seem to.

  • Are you looking for indefinable? Impossible to define or describe.
    – user66974
    May 28, 2015 at 18:24
  • 1
    Perhaps unlexicalized. May 28, 2015 at 18:39
  • @EdwinAshworth but that question is about having the word in your language, but the target foreign language does not. For example, English has a lexical gap for Schadenfreude in German, but there's no word in German for describing the fact that the German word Schadenfreude cannot be translated to English. That is, for the concept matched by the German word Schadenfreude, English-centric there's a 'lexical gap', but German-centric there's no word for English not having the word (in English). Or maybe you can just forget '-centric' and say that English has a 'lexical gap' there.
    – Mitch
    May 28, 2015 at 19:23
  • @Mitch Mari-Lou's answer covers this situation. May 28, 2015 at 19:27
  • ineffable : incapable of being expressed or described in words
    – wim
    May 28, 2015 at 23:52

2 Answers 2


In linguistics terms, this is known as a lacuna or lexical gap.

In particular, a word that might otherwise exist, but doesn't, is known as an accidental gap, which is distinguished from systematic gaps, which are prohibited by the fundamental rules of the language in question.

From Wikipedia's article on this topic:

In linguistics an accidental gap, also known as a gap, lexical gap, lacuna, or a hole in the pattern, is a word or other form that does not exist in some language but which would be permitted by the grammatical rules of the language.

Accidental gaps differ from systematic gaps, those words or other forms which do not exist in a language due to the boundaries set by phonological, morphological, and other rules of that specific language.

Now, as that passage notes, there are several types of accidental gaps (phonological, morphological, etc), but the specific kind where a word which expresses some idea which we might otherwise expect to exist, does not in fact exist, is known as a semantic gap:

In semantics a gap may be noted when a particular meaning distinction visible elsewhere in the lexicon is absent. For example, English words describing family members generally show gender distinction. Yet the English word cousin can refer to either a male or female cousin. Similarly, while there are general terms for siblings and parents, there is no comparable gender-neutral term for an aunt or uncle.

  • HI Dan. Let's say that the Maori language has no word for "turbine" or the English language has no word for "schadenfreude". What is the term for that dude? (That seems to be more specific, indeed more straightforward than semantic gaps ("Uncle"-etc)) Thanks.
    – Fattie
    May 29, 2015 at 3:34
  • 1
    @JoeBlow That's a slightly different question (because English or any individual language might have a semantic gap with respect to its own established patterns, irrespective of any other language), but none the less it is related, because an "untranslatability" gap is certainly one kind of lacuna. The short answer to your question is the term is realia; more details can be found at the prior question Edwin linked to (including the simple & direct "untranslatable" proposed by Mari-Lou).
    – Dan Bron
    May 29, 2015 at 9:21
  • Just to make sure I truly understand what a systematic gap is. If I have an experience so out of this world that language can do it no justice, it's untranslatable because language just isn't capable of going in to this realm. There is a hole, a gap, between language and this experience, that no language can bridge. Because of this, the governing rules of (any) language can't cover it, and you are unable to say (translate it) it with language. Would systematic gap cover this?
    – Tor
    May 29, 2015 at 19:13
  • @Tor If literally no human language can express it, you've got more than a simple "systematic gap": your experience is, as @wim put it, ineffable.
    – Dan Bron
    May 29, 2015 at 19:14
  • Okey, thanks for all your answers! Very informative and helpful. :)
    – Tor
    May 29, 2015 at 19:49

Undenoted might be an acceptable usage.


denote [dih-noht] Spell Syllables Synonyms Examples Word Origin verb (used with object), denoted, denoting. 1. to be a mark or sign of; indicate: A fever often denotes an infection. 2. to be a name or designation for; mean. 3. to represent by a symbol; stand as a symbol for.

  • What does undenoted mean? Please provide reference to support you answer.
    – user66974
    May 28, 2015 at 18:36

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