Take an example:

Me : Where can I find the best pizza in the city?
Friend:1000s of people are dying of hunger and all you care about best pizza.

In this case he does reply to my question but it doesn't help me.

Is there a word/group of words to express this?

  • I don't understand your question. Did you actually mean “Answering question in a way THAT doesn't answer it” ?? Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 8:41
  • Dodge/evade/etc all work as per the answers. But there is a better word or phrase related to argumentation that I can't quite think of. An example of it is with politicians in debates. They never answer the question posed to them but instead answer their own versions of the questions.
    – DanielST
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 13:34
  • @slicedtoad - are you thinking of dissemble? (I can't be bothered to find a link to make this an answer. Plus it doesn't really answer the OP's question anyway.)
    – AndyT
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 15:26

12 Answers 12


You are probably looking for to dodge (a question):

  • to evade (questions, etc) by cleverness or trickery:
    • kept dodging the reporter's questions. (Collins Dictionary)
  • what does AHD stand for ?
    – 2FaceMan
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 8:45
  • American Heritage Dictionary, you can see that in the link I provided.
    – user66974
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 8:49
  • 1
    Evade is probably better here, as 'cunning / trickery / deceit' is not involved: the responder is telling you point blank that your question shows a cavalier attitude. Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 12:45
  • I'm not sure 'dodge' or 'evade' implies than a reply was necessarily given. I think it could be used to describe situations where the person refrained from answering at all.
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 12:55
  • 1
    @TusharRaj - Well, the person replies as if asked a different question, that is what dodge and elude refer to. I think that it is probably not the best example. The title is quite clear, though.
    – user66974
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 13:06


"to avoid giving a direct answer to a question in order to hide the truth" http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/learner/prevaricate


Are you set on a verb?

I'd say your friend gave a nonanswer

  1. The lack of an answer.

  2. An answer that is so vague or noncommittal as to be worthless.



I"m tempted to say Hedge or Equivocate, but I'm not sure if they're quite right...

  • 4
    This is helpful, but probably better as a comment. Or you could grab a definition from an internet dictionary and add it to your post. That would mk it a proper answer! :-) Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 15:14

It could be considered a non sequitur

a statement having little or no relevance to what preceded it


  • The OP's example is not a non-sequitur. The nonanswer in his example is definitely related to the question even if it doesn't answer it.
    – ikegami
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 17:21
  • @ikegami I agree that most non sequiturs are totally off topic, but the answer has little ... relevance, as Collins offers. It does not follow from the question, the literal meaning of non sequitur.
    – bib
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 17:30

The specific situation you cite:

Q: [Any question whatsoever]

A: How can you worry about that when children are starving in Africa!

is called the Fallacy of Relative Privation. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of_relative_privation

There are many other ways in which a question can be answered in a manner that explains nothing though. For example, "begging the question" is answering a question in a manner that assumes the thing being asked about:

Q: Why is this diamond hard and this butter soft?

A: Because the diamond is made of hard molecules, butter is made of soft molecules.

You might have learned that stuff is made of molecules, but you have learned nothing about hardness and softness from this answer. Why are hard things hard? Because hard things are made of hard things. That is really a non-answer.

There are many different ways in which a question can be non-answered; are you looking for a term for all of them, or for some specific examples?

  • "Why are hard things hard? Because hard things are made of hard things." Isn't this more a tautology than a begged question?
    – hBy2Py
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 17:29
  • A begged question is circular reasoning, which is itself like a tautology with more steps; an advanced tautology, if you will. A bare tautology would be "Why is [hard thing] hard? Because it's hard/high on the hardness scale/not soft." Considering the composition is taking one step towards an actual explanation; the example does this so poorly that the only added information is based on the same premise as the question, which is the formal definition of begging the question. The premise must be true for the conclusion to be true.
    – Patrick M
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 22:34
  • 1
    And a big +1 to relative privation fallacy. It's the only unique aspect of this question; everything else is sufficiently covered by the questions ermanem linked.
    – Patrick M
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 22:38

Deflect the question.

This is often done in interviews or QA sessions.


This is an evasive response. Your friend has evaded the question.

  • 1
    In the particular example, it's almost as if his friend attacked the question. Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 14:43

My suggestion would be obfuscate : verb : to make obscure, unclear, or unintelligible.

  • Obfuscation has nothing to do with answering.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 17:53

Sidestep can also apply:

"to avoid answering or dealing with (something) directly, bypass, evade" - http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sidestep


A flippant or flip answer is a frivolous, unhelpful answer intended to belittle the person asking and/or the question being asked. I'd personally expect to see "flip" in this context instead of "flippant" -- "flip answer" is something of a set phrase.


In your example, not only is your friend not answering the question, he is dismissing the question as unworthy of an answer. Unlike an evasive answer or a non-sequitur, the response is meant to shut down further discussion of the topic by making you feel bad about having asked it.

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