I'm looking for a word that conveys something is "not understandable". For instance:

The message was staticky and corrupted, making it not understandable.

"Not understandable" sounds strange and like a double negative. I'm looking for a single word to take the place.

Some results suggest "bizarre" and "alien", but that's not what I'm going for. The speaker knows what it is, but can't understand it.

  • Your sample sentence and the elaboration below seem to be incompatible. If the speaker knows what it is, by definition, it is understood. In that situation, perhaps the speaker understands but can't *express it. Can you please elaborate on what you mean when you say, "The speaker knows what it is"?
    – Lawrence
    Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 17:23
  • Try gibberish.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 17:34
  • (Synonyms: abracadabra, babble, blabber, burble, double Dutch, double-talk, drivel, gabble, gibber, jabber, jabberwocky, mumbo jumbo, nonsense, prattle, slobber, blah (also blah-blah), hocus-pocus, hokeypokey, twaddle; chatter, gab, patter, prate, tattle, twitter; cackle, clack, clatter.)
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 17:36
  • @Lawrence I think the idea here is that the speaker knows that it is message but cannot understand what it means.
    – superato
    Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 18:18
  • I find it incomprehensible that no one who posted an answer bothered to provide a reference. Reprehensible!
    – ab2
    Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 22:25

5 Answers 5


The most apt word I suggest is incomprehensible, but with unintelligible as a close second. However the latter has a slightly different sense, and is a bit stronger.

  • 1
    This answer was posted before the one at the top. They are identical and still one of them got a downvote while the other got an upvote. Does it make sense?
    – Centaurus
    Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 17:54
  • 1
    @Centaurus No, I'm confused too. Although in this case I usually accept the one answered first if both are identical. Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 17:59
  • 2
    @Centaurus I'm not the downvoter, but this answer doesn't contain a definition. Both answers (edit: all of the current answers) would be improved by a link to a definition source. Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 18:00
  • @ASCIIThenANSI I know I would, if it were up to me.
    – NVZ
    Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 16:00
  • @NVZ Thank you for your support as regards the timing, but I am not sure I agree with your editing. To me understand and comprehend mean to all intents the same thing. So why does the negative of one become not comprehensible and the other unintelligible? However, intelligible and its antithesis seem to be describing something slightly different.
    – WS2
    Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 19:15

Yep, incomprehensible is the best word, it means 'not understandable' but is more concise and less awkward.

  • 1
    +1 I like your answer, but the best word seems a bit presumptuous. We also try to give formal definitions of the words we propose with a cite and a link to the source.
    – bib
    Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 22:27

'Unintelligible' means 'impossible to understand'.

  • This is the better answer for the OP's example. Unintelligible usually refers to a communication that made sense but was corrupted, by static in the OP's case. Incomprehensible usually refers to a communication that made no sense to start with. Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 23:24
  • In future, please include a reference and link (if the reference is online) in your answer.
    – ab2
    Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 0:10

or "garbled" for garbled speech.

  • 1
    +1, but please provide references such as dictionary entries.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 21:33

Another candidate might be indecipherable.

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