For example, nobody likes to use the restroom after they take a shower because you slide around on the seat, but that's not something commonly talked about between persons.

Or the well understood, but un-discussed feeling you get when you feel a bug or something crawling on you before you fall asleep, even though you know it's not a bug, but just a sensation.

It could not be of English origin.

  • 1
    Questions on choosing an ideal word or phrase must include information on how it will be used in order to be answered. For help writing a good word or phrase request, see: About single word requests
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 20:51
  • Are you looking to describe something we actively avoid discussing e.g. because it's embarrassing? Or are you trying to describe something we simply don't think to talk about because it seems unimportant?
    – talrnu
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 14:48
  • Some aren't really sure it's just a sensation. I suggest unspeackables or moot points considering that these are not worth talking about.
    – Yuri
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 11:24
  • "Apparently 'mokita' is a Kilivila word, from the language spoken on Kirwinia, the largest of the Trobriand Islands, in New Guinea". Unfortunately can't find a reliable source to confirm this info
    – kipelovets
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 17:21

9 Answers 9


Open secretM-W

noun a supposedly secret but generally known matter

"It's an open secret that he's been cheating on his wife."

Open secret — Wikipedia

An open secret is a concept or idea that is "officially" secret or restricted in knowledge but is actually widely known; or it refers to something that is widely known to be true but which none of the people most intimately concerned is willing to categorically acknowledge in public.

  • It may not be a single word, but hope this fits.
    – NVZ
    Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 20:30
  • 13
    I don't think this really fits because the examples @Ashley gives aren't even supposed to be secrets. Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 21:46
  • 3
    @NowIGetToLearnWhatAHeadIs - that's the point of the phrase; the open part is that everyone knows and the secret part is that no-one talks about it. It is in fact the most appropriate phrase for the OP's question.
    – Spratty
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 15:45
  • @Spratty I feel like 5arx's answer is more appropriate for the OP's questions.
    – AXMIM
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 19:15
  • @AXMIM at the end of the day I suppose it's down to personal preference. I'm personally more familiar and comfortable with "open secrets" so I suppose I'm always going to lean that way, despite "unspoken truths" being a perfectly good answer.
    – Spratty
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 8:08

It's not single-word, but there's a good fit in common knowledge.

something that is known to many people but often not made known officially



As you say "It could not be of English origin", the adjective taboo comes to mind.

late 18th century: from Tongan tabu ‘set apart, forbidden’; introduced into English by Captain Cook.

Definition: "not acceptable to talk about or do" (Mirriam Webster)


Filipina helper Liz (not her real name) battled bed bugs in June 2012 in Tai Wong Street in Wan Chai. She says the pests covered the 500 sq ft hostel, which was home to 10 helpers. "They were on the walls, on my towels and on the carpet." Travellers also spread the problem. Bed bugs are a bigger issue in hotels than the industry will admit. "People don't talk about it because it's taboo, but it's definitely happening" http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/health/article/1402401/bed-bug-infestations-are-rise-and-pests-are-hard-kill

Get kids talking about the loo, say NGOs, and it will help break down a major barrier to education in the developing world: cultural taboos about sanitation. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/nov/19/reading-writing-and-sanitation-how-kids-are-key-to-ending-toilet-taboos

  • 2
    what exactly is "taboo" about OP's example? It's not taboo to feel like ants are crawling over your skin.
    – user180089
    Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 21:36
  • @V0ight - you might feel that there are ants crawling over your skin but not talk about it (as in the title of the question) because it is taboo.
    – grateful
    Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 21:40
  • 1
    ~ you've failed to explain what is taboo about not talking about ants crawling on your skin. Taboo is used in contexts of something that is bad, i.e. socially unacceptable
    – user180089
    Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 21:46
  • In his specific example, what's taboo is that it's a discussion of using the toilet. :p (That said, I'm not sure whether that was supposed to be a relevant part of the example.)
    – neminem
    Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 23:08
  • In the example of the bug sensation, personally I would have no problem talking about it. Reading between the lines I interpreted that for the OP this topic is taboo because it might demonstrate paranoia or suggest dirty living conditions?
    – grateful
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 8:50

unspoken truth (thanks be to @hatchet)

Also, as a variation on the term unspoken rule, we could coin the phrase unspoken culture.

Finally, Carl Jung's collective unconscious seems apt here.


According to Jung, the human collective unconscious is populated by instincts and by archetypes: universal symbols such as the Great Mother, the Wise Old Man, the Shadow, the Tower, Water, the Tree of Life, and many more.

Jung considered the collective unconscious to underpin and surround the unconscious mind, distinguishing it from the personal unconscious of Freudian psychoanalysis. He argued that the collective unconscious had profound influence on the lives of individuals, who lived out its symbols and clothed them in meaning through their experiences. The psychotherapeutic practice of analytical psychology revolves around examining the patient's relationship to the collective unconscious.

  • Hah, I feel this is the only answer that really understood the question. But I still wish there were a better word to use in this context. Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 15:23
  • @Darren Ringer ~ Thank you :) .... Let's make one up then !
    – user180089
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 17:02

Tacit \Tac"it\, a. [L. tacitus, p. p. of tacere to be silent, to pass over in silence; akin to Goth. [thorn]ahan to be silent, Icel. [thorn]egja, OHG. dag[=e]n: cf. F. tacite. Cf. {Reticent}.] Done or made in silence; implied, but not expressed; silent; as, tacit consent is consent by silence, or by not interposing an objection. -- {Tac"it*ly}, adv. [1913 Webster]

       The tacit and secret theft of abusing our brother in
       civil contracts.                         --Jer. Taylor.
 [1913 Webster]

Perhaps narrower than you are looking for, but unmentionable comes to mind. Unmentionable typically connotes the subject is well known, but not spoken about, due to embarrassing or offensive aspects.

I say "perhaps narrower" because your question doesn't limit the lack of discussion as being due to an embarrassing or offensive characteristic.

  • "unmentionables" was (is?) commonly used to refer to underwear specifically, and could generally be used for things like OP mentions. (Commentary - the internet has really allowed for people to check on things like OP.)
    – MikeP
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 16:18

I'm at a loss for a single word, but this type of thing is commonly described as "something people don't talk about." "Something people don't talk about" isn't necessarily taboo; it's just considered unpleasant, uncomfortable, or rude to discuss with others, though there is an unspoken, implicit understanding that most people have knowledge of or experience with the unmentioned "something."

As a single word, I would refer to the "something people don't talk about" as an unpleasantness, though by definition it isn't necessarily "something people don't talk about."


The unpleasantness of accidentally getting poop on your hand when changing a baby's diaper is something people don't (usually) talk about.


Your examples seem different to me.

For example, nobody likes to use the restroom after they take a shower because you slide around on the seat, but that's not something commonly talked about between persons.

I would say that's probably considered impolite to discuss, like the details of your bowel movements. You probably wouldn't discuss it at a business meeting or the dinner table, but you might with your doctor. ("I sprained my wrist when I slipped off the toilet...")

Or the well understood, but un-discussed feeling you get when you feel a bug or something crawling on you before you fall asleep, even though you know it's not a bug, but just a sensation.

I don't know of any social barrier to talking about that; it just might not be interesting enough.

  • 1
    Hi this doesn't appear to be an answer. Did you mean to make a comment instead? Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 16:37
  • This answer was automatically flagged as low-quality because of its length and content. Do not answer questions which should be closed. Questions which lack results of research are out of scope. Word or phrase requests are out of scope, unless they are expert-level, particularly interesting, unique, and thought-provoking, and show effort and research.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 17:12

The reasons why people shy away from discussing such topics vary, so corralling all of them into a single term is challenging. grateful mentioned taboo in another answer. Other broad terms for subjects that may make others uneasy are rude or gauche.

“Toilet humor” is not discussed in polite company because it is considered tacky. Sex jokes and objectifying humor are off-color, crude, or obnoxious. We don’t generally announce the results of colonoscopies to or share unedited, graphic birth videos with mere acquaintances because the topics are uncomfortable or awkward. Revealing one’s exact income to someone whom the speaker has not engaged in an accounting or legal capacity is seen as boastful, unfiltered, or—itself crudely characterized—douchey.

The last is interesting because it is borrowed from an unmentionable (also mentioned in another answer) bathroom subject as a pejorative for immoderate behavior.

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