Sorry for the misleading title - but I know of no other way to put this question -

Is there a phrase or idiom or even word associated with this particular phenomenon/incident/occurrence ->

"when you don't know the meaning of a/some word(s) in the definition of a word, whose meaning you didn't know, and hence had to look up its definition"?

It is poorly worded, I know. Feel Free to Edit this question!

  • At one time, the definition of the word "ignorant" was simply "not knowing." Today, however, the word has very negative connotations. Nevertheless, when I come across a word I don't know the meaning of, I can tell myself "I'm ignorant of that word's meaning." By the way, many people upon hearing the word "ignorant," immediately think "stupid," "rude," "unintelligent," and other such negative words. Jul 1, 2016 at 12:21
  • @rhetorician I did come up with 'ignorant', but it has several meanings and it's context isn't well understood by people, as you pointed out. Jul 1, 2016 at 12:34
  • Just say "you're new to these words".
    – NVZ
    Jul 2, 2016 at 5:00
  • 1
    So the question isn't 'what do you call it when you don't know a word', but 'what do you call it when you not only don't know a word, but you don't know what the words in that word's definition mean either? I'd be surprised if there was such a specific idiom, but kind of hope there is.
    – Spagirl
    Jul 2, 2016 at 6:11

1 Answer 1


New to/atODO

adjective 2.2  Inexperienced at or unaccustomed to (an activity)

"I’m quite new to gardening"
"So I'm quite new at it, I'm still naïve and eager, which is why I'm in the publicity role."

When you say that you're new to something, people generally understand that your knowledge in that field is very little, as if you're almost ignorant. However it doesn't usually have that negative connotation associated with being called an ignorant.

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