Is there a word for a person who uses words that they don't understand. Or a name for the usage of words that one does not comprehend? For example, I'm trying to describe a woman leading a training class who could read really well in English - very loud, pronunciation was good - but when someone asked her what "voyeurism" meant, she had no idea and admitted she'd read the word "a thousand times" and will "look it up one day".

  • 1
    If it exists, it would be a word that most people didn't know.
    – TimR
    Oct 16, 2015 at 13:28

2 Answers 2


The idiom parrot fashion comes pretty close, I think. You could say the woman learned the word "voyeurism" parrot fashion.

parrot fashion: if you learn something parrot fashion, you repeat what someone has just said without understanding it


parrot fashion: copying or repeating what someone says without thinking about it or understanding it properly


Another term that could help in your context is mindlessly. The woman was using the term mindlessly, i.e. mechanically, without thinking or understanding what it means.

  • No. If you learn something parrot fashion you might not fully understand what you are parroting. But the reverse does not follow: It does not follow that the use of a word that you do not understand implies that you learned it parrot fashion.
    – Drew
    Oct 16, 2015 at 17:17
  • @Drew But you see, the lady admitted she'd read the word a thousand times. The reasoning is, she repeated it mindlessly after (or you might say learned it from) the author of the source where she read it. Hence, parrot fashion.
    – A.P.
    Oct 16, 2015 at 17:44
  • I think being able to properly pronounce an unknown word by "sounding it out" and never bothering to look up the definition is probably not "learning in parrot fashion" I might think of learning in parrot fashion as more appropriate to hearing a word or phrase, coming to understand the context in which the word or phrase is used and then using it in that context without really understanding what it means. I'm reminded of the "Take it easy" - "Up yours" sequence in the movie Starman.
    – Jim
    Oct 17, 2015 at 18:31

Yes. The word for this is person (or human or...).

We all sometimes use some words that we do not understand fully. If this were not the case we would never use words at all.

End of story.

  • While this is no doubt true, it doesn't really answer the question. This could be the answer for every single question we get asking for a word to describe a person who fits or displays some characteristic or other. “What do you call someone who fixes cars for a living?” — “A person”. Yes, true, it is a person; but more relevantly, it's a mechanic. Oct 16, 2015 at 16:21
  • @JanusBahsJacquet: No. All car mechanics might be persons, but not all persons are car mechanics. The point of my answer is that all persons use words they do not understand fully. Which is why I emphasized "all" in the answer. Using words we do not fully understand is universal. So there is no special word for someone who does this. The question is akin to asking "What do you call a person who eats?" You could answer "eater", I suppose, but such a question and answer are not very helpful.
    – Drew
    Oct 16, 2015 at 17:14
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    @JanusBahsJacquet the original question is unclear...I think the intent of the person is important because it's either a fool or a poser. Oct 16, 2015 at 17:34

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