Is there a word for the feeling/situation where we almost remember a thing/word/scene,etc. but are not able to exactly recall it. For example, the other day I was trying to recall the author of the book Contact (i.e. Carl Sagan). I wasn't able to exactly recall 'Carl Sagan' but was in that situation where I could feel I almost remember it. I could recall there was the letter 'C' in his name. Finally after some effort I could recall the exact name 'Carl Sagan'. Is there any word for such a feeling/situation? EDIT: The feeling is not necessarily of trying to remember a single word(as in from vocabulary). It could be trying to remember a movie or an experience that you were a part of, etc. Eg: If say I was with friends and we were having a conversation. After few days I was able to recall a statement said by someone, but wasn't able to remember by whom; i.e. I had a clouded recollection and I could almost remember but not really.


3 Answers 3


On the tip of one's tongue is a useful expression:

  • Fig. [of a thought or idea] *about to be said or almost remembered. (Typically: be ~; have something ~.) I have his name right on the tip of my tongue. I'll think of it in a second. John had the answer on the tip of his tongue, but Anne said it first. See also: of, tip, tongue

(McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms)

  • Hi @Josh61, thanks for your answer. This phrase is accurate, but I was wondering if there was a word. Perhaps something on the lines of 'recollection-paralysis' :)
    – ronilk
    Mar 15, 2016 at 8:22
  • 1
    @ronilk - probably lapse an act or an instance of lapsing, usually minor or temporary failure; a slip: a lapse of memory. thefreedictionary.com/lapse
    – user66974
    Mar 15, 2016 at 8:33
  • 2
    If you want something a little more colloquial, we tend to call these brainfarts. Mar 15, 2016 at 8:58

A somewhat misleading entry in the Farlex Trivia Dictionary may provide the word you seek. If you don't mind using a technical term with a colloquial sense, then you have

lethologica - If you cannot recall the precise word for something, you have a case of lethologica, which may lead you to an obsession with trying to recall it—loganamnosis.

[Farlex Trivia Dictionary. S.v. "lethologica." Retrieved March 15 2016 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/lethologica ]

However, it should be noted that 'lethologica' is most typically used in a technical sense. In that sense, 'lethologica' is "a temporary but debilitating disorder" (Wikipedia, "Tip of the tongue").

In a February 9, 2016 article at BBC Future, "Lethologica: When a word's on the tip of your tongue", Mark Gwynn has this to say about the origins of the word:

The coinage of this term is popularly attributed to psychologist Carl Jung in the early 20th Century, but the earliest clear record is in the 1915 edition of Dorland’s American Illustrated Medical Dictionary, where lethologica is defined as the ‘inability to remember the proper word’.

Response to question edit:

What you're now describing is called 'anomia'. Again the term is technical, and describes a type of 'aphasia', which is a disorder:

a·no·mi·a (ə-nō′mē-ə) n.
Aphasia characterized by the impaired ability to recall the names of persons and things.

[American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. S.v. "anomia." Retrieved March 15 2016 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/anomia ]

While the terms 'anomia' and 'anomic aphasia' refer to a disorder, the disorder may be more or less severe, and in a mild form may be common in a given population.

  • Thanks @JEL. This is really close to the kind of word that I was searching but it still points to recalling from vocabulary. I was hoping for a word which applies to any kind of situation which we are not able to exactly recall (please refer edited question). Lethalogica is really close though. I think I will wait for more answers.
    – ronilk
    Mar 15, 2016 at 9:39
  • @ronilk, hey, you're welcome. I should mention that "moving target" questions, while unavoidable, are not exactly kosher: people put effort into answering the question the way it is put initially. It seems somewhat rude to then change the question so their effort has been wasted and their answers no longer apply. No big deal, just something you should be aware of.
    – JEL
    Mar 15, 2016 at 9:45
  • Hi @JEL, sorry for the trouble buddy. But I had to reply to a duplicate question request wherein I was asked to elaborate. In either case in my initial question I did mention "thing/word/scene etc." which takes emphasis away from just a "word". Maybe I could have been more accurate there. Anyways, I dont plan to start an argument, but sorry for any inconvenience caused. As u said, moving target questions seem unavoidable. I will try to make it as detailed as possible next time onward. Thanks for pointing out.
    – ronilk
    Mar 15, 2016 at 9:56


refers exactly to what you are talking about: a vague, murky, yet palpable precognition.

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