The person gets into some situation, certainly not perceived as a good one and not necessarily too bad one either, and then finds that most other people don't get into such situations. And he begins to wonder "what do/did others know that I don't/didn't?" or "how come nobody told me this obvious thing before?"

This might relate to the situation when somebody puts a lot of efforts into some occupation only to find that he doesn't succeed because his circle of friends doesn't have enough important contacts that others worked to develop.

Or this might relate to the situation when most of your circle of friends didn't get recruited into the military because their families preemptively found some possibly false though accepted excuses, and you realize that you just didn't know about any of this?

paranoia - implies some degree of obsession which isn't what I ask.

dawn - is the close term, but it doesn't imply that most others know this.

otherworldly - generic term that might apply to that person

naive - another generic term that implies a simplified/straightforward view of the world

I also wouldn't qualify such person as a loser because he supposedly put his best efforts, but the important pieces of information just eluded him for some reason.

There might be some terms in psychoanalysis or psychiatry that describe this, but I don't imply any degree of morbidity.

something that seems to be obvious to most others but not to me and nobody told me

There might be several terms: the feeling, the thing itself, and its realization. It also can be implied unknown what is it? or known how come no-one told me this?.

The thing might also remain perpetually illusive.

  • I'd describe it as "that left-out feeling". I have no idea if there's a more specific term for it. Sometimes, with great mental and emotional effort, you can reorient your thinking and become one of the lucky 10,000 (also known as TIL, "Today I Learned") instead of feeling, well, left out.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 23:36
  • 1
    @DavidBlomstrom Everyone except you and Grammar Addict knows what the word for this is, we're just not going to tell you because we think it's so weird you didn't already know ;-) Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 12:56
  • Would you consider ostracism? It can be the cause rather than the feeling though. The modern meaning is defined as: "any act or acts of ignoring and excluding of an individual or groups by an individual or a group... By refusing to communicate with a person, that person is effectively ignored and excluded.". wikipedia
    – ermanen
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 21:52

12 Answers 12


The word that comes to mind for me is clueless. It's similar to naive but instead of the person showing lack of judgement, they are just "having no knowledge, understanding, or ability".

"...the important pieces of information just eluded him for some reason." I think clueless would fit in this regard. Clueless does not necessarily imply stupidity or naivety, but does show that some knowledge eluded him.

Another feeling one might feel when coming to the realization that others know something he does not is insignificant. They might feel like an outsider or excluded from whatever knowledge everyone around him possesses.


The best I can think of for this combination of topic-specific-ignorance and a feeling of exclusion or having been left out or left behind is:

[to be or feel] out of the loop

From Free dictionary idioms:

Not having knowledge of or involvement in something: A few people at the top knew what was going on, but everybody else was out of the loop.

Not part of a group that is kept up-to-date with information about something.

I think this captures the sense of paranoia and of being left out that the question mentioned.

Some definitions (e.g. Google's) talk about it being ignorant of "information known to only a privileged few", and many others talk about its use in the context of decision-making - but this is usually when there's some such context provided, usually political (for example "Only the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and their closest advisors knew the full implications of the plans. Everyone else was out of the loop").

If you use it without any such narrow context, particularly when talking about feeling out of the loop, it can mean generically out of touch with common knowledge. For example, "I watched a topical comedy show and I didn't understand half the jokes. I feel so out of the loop".

Closely related (and maybe better in some cases):

[to be or feel] out of touch

Free dictionary idioms again:

not informed about something: The report shows that the committee is out of touch with recent developments in space technology.

knowing no news of someone or something; not keeping informed of the developments relating to someone or something

An important difference is, if you say someone is "out of touch", it's implied that they're to blame for not keeping themselves informed; if you say someone is "out of the loop", the implication is that they're ignorant due to never having been informed by others, without really saying anything about whose fault it might be that it became like this.


This happens to me all the time. I'm a fairly book-smart person, but frequently miss subtle social clues that everyone else seems to be tracking. The words I use most often to describe myself in these situations are oblivious and inattentive.

  • Oblivious is a good one.
    – Abs
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 0:47

Consider disillusionment.

Feeling disillusionment means that you're bummed out because you no longer believe in something. Disillusionment is when the hard truth of reality makes you lose faith in your dreams and ideals. It means having no more misconceptions, false impressions, and false judgments/beliefs in life.

Example: After the irrational exuberance on the stock markets and since the bubble of so-called new economy burst, disillusionment is the order of the day.

The expression "lost innocence" conveys a similar meaning.


It sounds like what you're describing is a typical ingredient of dramatic irony, a device in literature wherein everyone except the character in question knows something important that the poor slob doesn't.

The term (borrowed from Aristotle) for the moment of discovery - the moment when Homer Simpson cries, "Doh!" - is the Greek word anagnorisis, which M-W obligingly defines as

the point in the plot especially of a tragedy at which the protagonist recognizes his or her or some other character's true identity or discovers the true nature of his or her own situation

Wilbur's hopes were dashed; his sudden anagnorisis came when Melpomene revealed that she had been planning to marry Sterling Chatsworth all along.



eye opener

Informal A startling or shocking revelation. American Heritage® Dictionary


Something revealed, especially a dramatic disclosure of something not previously known or realized. American Heritage® Dictionary


You cite your own answer. It finally dawned on me is entirely appropriate to convey both the moment and the feelings. In my opinion, if you phrase it that way, it implies that you were a tad slow in coming to the realization.

You could also say the wool was pulled from my eyes.


There's a famous Tamil phrase for this context. I'll present a translated version in English. However I am not sure about its usage and popularity in the Western /native English speaking world. The phrase is

Known is a drop, Unknown is an Ocean

This implies that what you know is very little (a drop) compared to what you don't know (an Ocean) and to expand your knowledge as vast as an ocean, you must constantly seek to accumulate more drops. This phrase has a neutral connotation. Perhaps, it could be used as a moment of realization.

The saying is attributed to Avvaiyar, a legendary Tamil poet from centuries ago.


You could say that the scales fell from your eyes.

Based on the verse from the Bible: Acts 9:18

Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized,

Which is an idiom used when people realise something they've missed for a long time, or have changed their opinion to something they were metaphorically blind to.


There is a British (and Australian) expression that can be used in that scenario:

"The penny has dropped"

Per the Phrase Finder (UK) site, the definition of this phrase is:

A belated realization of something after a period of confusion or ignorance.

The FreeDictionary's sample sentence is:

"It was only when I saw Ron's car outside Penny's house that the penny finally dropped and I realised they were having an affair."

Origin (from the Phrase Finder site):

penny in the slot - The Oxford English Dictionary states that this phrase originated by way of allusion to the mechanism of penny-in-the-slot machines. The OED's earliest citation of a use of the phrase with the 'now I understand' meaning, is from The Daily Mirror August 1939:

And then the penny dropped, and I saw his meaning!

The image of someone waiting for a penny-in-the-slot mechanism (which often jammed) to operate does sound plausible and, if that isn't the origin, it is difficult to imagine what is.

British public toilets in 1939 required users to 'spend a penny' in order to unlock the door to get in and that has given rise to speculation that that is the source of the phrase. There's no evidence to support that theory though. Likewise the theory that the expression originated with the 'Button A/Button B' style of telephone boxes, which used coins as payment for calls and which were also in use in 1939.

Earlier citations, which make literal reference to actual coins and which are likely precursors of the later figurative use of the phrase, appear in print in the USA from the early 20th century; for example, this piece from the Maryland newspaper, The Daily News, November 1921:

The penny dropped [into the weighing scales], the needle started around the figures, and stopped this time on 150.


Went right over ones head... The jokes on (the person)... The last to know... Unaware... And then it hit (them).... Hit me like a ton of bricks... Dropped the bomb.... And then it clicked.... Imcomprehensive... The laughing stock... Ignunt.... Dense.... Has no idea...


Enlightened, and or a feeling of enlightenment.

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