I need a word that describes when you're trying to explain an idea to someone, but you just can't word it right. Like when the words are just on the tip of your tongue, but you simply don't know them, or they don't exist. I want the word to describe the feeling, or even the situation. The feeling is kind of like trying to describe the color blue to a blind person, but more about the speaker's incapability to communicate the idea, rather than the listener's incapability to understand.


1 Answer 1


If the idea is necessarily inexpressible, then it would be called ineffable:

  1. incapable of being expressed or described in words; inexpressible

Otherwise, the phenomenon of being unable to think of a particular word or phrase is actually known as tip-of-the-tongue.

Not sure what you'd call it if you can think of all the relevant terms, but can't seem to order them effectively, which may be what you're asking.

  • What about qualia? That would more describe the inability to describe the color blue as you don't really know if we experience it in the same way.
    – swade
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 20:23
  • Qualia are ineffable, certainly. I'm not sure if all ineffable things are qualia... I suppose you might say that a given irrational number is ineffable but not qualia, but that wouldn't be within the scope of this question. Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 21:14
  • In any case, good observation. :) Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 21:14

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.