We are trying to find a word to describe the concept of "being aware that you are unaware," or possibly "knowing that there is more to know." The closest I could come up with was enlightened naivety, but I was hoping that there would be a single word that encompassed the entire meaning.

  • 2
    Playing Rumsfeld, perhaps?
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 23, 2015 at 21:27
  • Open-minded, or open to new ideas? Or maybe just realistic. Dec 23, 2015 at 21:28
  • 1
    I think that being enlightened or self-aware would both apply, given context provided elsewhere, but without the necessary degree of specificity (i.e. regarding what the person is aware of).
    – Nonnal
    Dec 23, 2015 at 21:30
  • Ignorance could work, "She was well aware of her ignorance."
    – mkennedy
    Dec 23, 2015 at 22:14
  • @mkennedy: nice paraprosdokian in reverse! Don Dec 23, 2015 at 22:18

3 Answers 3


"conscious of one's ignorance" comes to mind.

to be conscious of one's ignorance is to be aware of how much you don't know.


"if one becomes conscious of one's ignorance" regarding something, it may create a wish to know more about it.

"to be conscious of one's ignorance" is a great step forward.


One-word answers are not accepted by EL&U servers, but the word that comes to mind for me (depending on your context) is "Humility."

@Hot Licks' link includes a quotation from former U. S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and it is one of the most frightening paragraphs I've ever read, considering his influence on the President of the United States at that time:

"Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones."

  • I don't quite understand your first sentence. Are you saying the StackOverflow machines hosting their software do not have the technical feature that allows single word answers?
    – Mitch
    Dec 23, 2015 at 23:52
  • Correct. I even had to add to this one-word comment in order to post it. Dec 24, 2015 at 0:03
  • Oh. I thought you mean that you couldn't give answers that provide a single word (a very common thing here). But you mean that you can't write less than 15 characters in an answer (however many words are in it) which is what the technical limitation is, not the single word. You can give a single word but do so with at least 15 characters total, which you should do anyway in order to give an explanation of why your single words is appropriate.
    – Mitch
    Dec 24, 2015 at 0:28
  • Exactly correct! :-) Dec 24, 2015 at 0:48

"Seeker" comes to my mind. One will seek something, only when, one is aware of the lack of it. Seeker is the one who knows there are more things to know/gain, and then he/she will strive for more knowledge.

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