Is there a word for people incapable of thinking?

That is the way it is done since ever. Some offer simplifications: they are, though, for people incapable of thinking.

Is there a word to express that equivalently (or close to equivalently)? The sentence should look like something like this, with ADJECTIVE standing in for the desired word (however, variations will also be considered):

[. . .] they are, though, for ADJECTIVE people.

To clarify, the wanted meaning surely wants to “attack” or to “strike” the addressees but without degenerating into vulgar insults, thus maintaining its fine and elegant form.

  • 1
    Try they are, though, for the unthinking. There is an important difference between being incapable of thinking and merely being out the habit (as Paul Tabori expounds in his The Natural Science of Stupidity); but it seems to me likely that the latter side is the one you are really looking for a word for. Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 12:40
  • As an aside, the semicolon is wrong and doesn't even make sense.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 12:44
  • @RegDwigнt Where?
    – edmz
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 12:45
  • Oh haha, my bad, the colon of course. Silly me. The colon.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 13:58

16 Answers 16


How about imbecilic?

Imbecilic: a person considered foolish or stupid.

A somewhat less offensive term might be unreasoning.

Unreasoning: not reasoning or exercising reason; thoughtless; irrational.

Although perhaps unreasonable is more suited to your incapable criterion.

I had another idea: whilst it doesn't really convey a connotation of incapability, a word which is often used in such circumstances is thoughtless.

Marked by or showing lack of due forethought or care; careless: a thoughtless mistake; a thoughtless bumbler.

Lacking thought: staring blankly in a thoughtless daze.

All definitions from thefreedictionary.com

  • 1
    unreasoning got very close to what I meant; what did even more is mindless.
    – edmz
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 16:30
  • 1
    Fair enough. I think unreasoning suits your needs well. In my experience, mindless tends to be used for people who are more deranged or loutish, i.e., mindless vandals.
    – Charon
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 16:36
  • Please don't use "imbecilic", as it is an ableist slur.
    – Demi
    Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 19:39

brain-dead should work (since I see the pejorative tag)

(humorous) very stupid and boring; not intelligent (Oxford)

Edit: A more elegent term for the same idea would be


anencephaly: congenital absence of part or all of the brain. (Dictioary.com)

  • 14
    "anencephalous" is not more elegant, it's just weirder.
    – kirk
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 13:14
  • 2
    Congenital absence of all of the brain? So… stillbirth or miscarriage, presumably? Commented Jul 11, 2015 at 16:19
  • @JanusBahsJacquet: Presumably.
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented Jul 11, 2015 at 16:32

Thoughtless come to mind. Merriam Webster:

2 : devoid of thought : insensate

Insensate is a 4 bit word, while thoughtless only costs a nickel.

  • 6
    "thoughtless" is much more commonly used to mean inconsiderate though surprisingly, that's the 3rd definition in MW-O. Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 13:41

A very literal word would be vegetative:

characterized by, resulting from, or being a state in which there is total loss of cognitive functioning and in which only involuntary bodily functions (as breathing or blinking of the eyes) are sustained (Merriam-Webster online)

This is a technical word but related to veg out:

to relax in a mindless way (usually followed by out): We vegged out all weekend, watching the soccer channel and ordering pizza. Tonight I'll go home and veg with a good book. (reference.com)

This is apparently cited as early as 1990 in the film Pretty Woman: "Let's watch old movies all night... we'll just veg out in front of the TV" (source: phrases.org.uk).

A more pejorative word for a person whose brain seems to be switched off is simply to call them a vegetable, particularly a mindless vegetable.


uncomprehending (adj.):

showing or having an inability to comprehend

'an uncomprehending silence'

Source: ODO

  • 1
    +1 for a word that's accessible without being too informal. However, there's a difference between being unable to comprehend(understand) and being unable to think. The difference doesn't matter a whole lot in the OP's example, so it should be passable.
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 13:30
  • Hi @TusharRaj I'm sure the OP knows his target group is just being lazy, but thought I'd include this as a 'softer' adjective. People can experience cognition problems as a result of dementia, Parkinson's, etc, where their thought processes are disrupted. You might say that being unable to 'comprehend' is the unavoidable consequence of being unable to 'think' or put thoughts together in a meaningful sense. Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 13:57
  • My thoughts exactly. I think uncomprehending actually makes more sense here. There could be situations where the inability to think is not the same as the inability to comprehend. This isn't one of them.
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 14:10
  • Yes, you're right:) Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 14:12
  • 1
    I should have better expressed what that phrase wanted to say. The "incapable of thinking" does not want to refer to people physically incapable of that, but rather lazy ones that don't want to turn on their brain, and thus accusing them as (adjective) people because of that. Does that make sense?
    – edmz
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 14:39

It doesn't necessarily mean incapable of thinking but unthinking fits well in that sentence. The Free Dictionary:

  1. indicating lack of thought or reflection.

Consider using simpleton for your purposes: it describes someone who has at most a very simple, basic understanding of the subject - or anything at all, for that matter - implying their ignorance is due to an inability to comprehend (i.e. idiocy or foolishness). Really it's almost synonymous with "fool", but lacks the full force of its offensiveness.


they are, though, for _____

Intellectually challenged is the most recently coined and politically correct term, whilst the other two are mild euphemisms for stupidity. Simple-minded could also imply a lack of formal education.

enter image description here

Google Books Ngram comparing intellectually challenged (red line) to simple-minded people (blue line) since 1960.

enter image description here


They are



dimwitted people

Definition of DIMWIT : a stupid or mentally slow person



Slightly less of a direct meaning, but may fit well:

unquestioning - accepting something without dissent or doubt.


naive - showing a lack of experience, wisdom, or judgement.



  1. lacking the normal mental powers.

From the Oxford Dictionary:

They don't own any sign of scientific thinking and they just follow their feeble-minded instincts and make stupid decisions.

From Wikipedia:

[P]ersons who may be capable of earning a living under favourable circumstances, but are incapable from mental defect, existing from birth or from an early age: (1) of competing on equal terms with their normal fellows, or (2) of managing themselves and their affairs with ordinary prudence.


I like the adjective Doltish for this use.

not having or showing an ability to absorb ideas readily

I looked at his furtive eyes and brutal, doltish face, but he kept them blank as a wall.

  • Are you sure you linked to the right place? Your quoted def differs from the one your link has.
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 13:07
  • Hmm, I'm not sure which site I got that def from. I'll have to look back and fix the link. Thanks @TusharRaj. Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 13:21

It would be better of the poster clarified what they mean by 'incapable'. Incapable by figurative sense or literal senses. Well seeing as how stupid is used as an insult it wouldn't fit.

As I see it from y studies in neurology and archetypal psychology, there is no such thing as 'incapable' of thinking unless the brain is fully dead. Even brain dead people have thoughts just not conscious ones or they are unable to communicate them. Thus unless the brain is fully dead there is thought. As long as the brain is functioning, even if on levels that are undetectable there is thought even if it's just the brain telling the body to breathe.

However even those with anencepholy (such as this one boy I heard about) had such condition yet grew to be basically fully functional despite only having a brain stem. So is it really a matter of the brain or the body? The body can think too. It's just up to the brain to decode these messages, unfortunately they often go dismissed or outright unrecognized by the conscious mind.

By these standards, every single cell is alive, every single cell can feel, experience, and hence think.

As long as there is neuron activity there is thought on a brain respect. As long as any organism, multi celled or single celled is alive there is thought. As well as thought that 'has no meaning or doesn't make sense'. How the brain actually works is what we are really talking about here. Our bodies will often warn us about deficiencies and such, but the conscious mind will interpret that as 'jumbled nonsense' but we have the thoughts because our inner minds know what is going on.

Even thoughts that don't make sense to what we interpret at a conscious level does not mean it is 'incapable' it's just impossible to understand at that level with our conscious understanding.


The ever-increasing ability of computers to outperform humans in intelligence tests (math, chess, game-shows, etc.), has led to attempts to define what it means to be "incapable of thinking", often despite technically superiority: uncreative, soulless, predictable, rule follower, lack common sense.

Due to a shared presumption of the superiority of human intellect (and perhaps a fear/hatred of computers taking human jobs), computer related terminology has strong pejorative connotations when applied to humans. Calling someone robotic implies they are blindly following a set of processes and rules rather than thinking for themselves.

I learned to solve differential equations by hand, that is the way it is done since ever. Calculator-based methods offer simplifications: the are, though, turning our children into mindless number-crunchers.


I think Terry Pratchett's term, the hard of thinking, works well in that sentence.

  • Please explain why you think that. Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 19:39

Although not technically accurate, I would commonly just say "stupid" in situations such as these.

  • "To clarify, the wanted meaning surely wants to "attack", to strike the addressees however without degenerating into vulgar insults, thus maintaining its fine and elegant form." Stupid would otherwise fit, especially if said by Linus Torvalds.
    – edmz
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 16:26
  • 1
    @black: "Stupid" is not "vulgar". Also, whoever voted to delete, deleting is for spam, not for answers you disagree with. Downvote and move on. Thanks. Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 20:43

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