As a person who is fascinated by language and language development in children, I think about words and concepts a lot (probably too much). I often have the feeling that there should be a word for something--a common feeling, I'm sure, in this community. But I've never had a word (or phrase) for that sensation.

It's not the "tip of the tongue" phenomenon, which is the feeling you have when you know there is a word for something, but can't quite retrieve it (NCBI ToT and Aging; Science Daily ToT).

Nor is it a sniglet, a term popularized by Not Necessarily The News. It's more a desire for a "real word."

  • 1
    The newspaper comic strip Baldo calls words that should be in the dictionary but aren't "Pitos" gocomics.com/baldo/2011/01/25 and coming up with them is a running gag in the comic that is revived when the larger plot arcs are taking a break for a while.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 5:10
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    Here's a fun site with some neologisms for expressing obscure feelings: dictionaryofobscuresorrows.com
    – DyingIsFun
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 2:12
  • Deliciously meta. A proto-neo-logism, as it were.
    – Bob Stein
    Commented Feb 9, 2018 at 13:16

2 Answers 2


It's probably intuition.

Once I understood the concept, my intuition told me that there should be a word for it.


intuition NOUN

1 [mass noun] The ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning.

‘She learns some of her trade from books, but relies on her intuition and common sense for much more.’

1.1 [count noun] A thing that one knows or considers likely from instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning.
‘your insights and intuitions as a native speaker are positively sought’

‘Where exactly do you draw the distinction between concepts and intuitions in the actual use of language?’


Probability or Imperative

A couple of clarifications could help here. When you say there "should" or "ought" to be a word for something, do you mean "there most probably is, or is to be expected" (there should be a cliff on the other side of the road) or "it is an imperative to be so?" (there should be a sign on the wall indicating the rules)

In the first case, I would ask if the feeling indicates you have confidence that there is a word for some thing or concept but you don't know it. This might be generally described as having an inkling, a hunch, a notion, suspicion, or intimation.

In the second case, you would be asking (or stating/suggesting) that there be a word for something that doesn't yet have a word representing/defining/describing it, like making a case for an English equivalent of the German schadenfreude, for example.

Intuition vs. Knowing

You indicate this is a feeling which implies an unconscious, spontaneous knowing that could not be reached through normal deductive, inductive, or non-monotonic reasoning heuristics; it's an intuitive knowing and not one gained from accumulation of knowledge. It is unconscious in that one does not consciously decide to have this feeling and spontaneous in that while it may come as an epiphany, it does not come when called (think about one's creative muse).

This would contrast with, say, reaching that conclusion (that there ought to be a word for...) from a logical, possibly emperical, bit of reasoning with what you know about words and lexicons and etymology and so on. Then I'd argue it would be less of a feeling and more of a proposition or supposition (that there ought to be a word for...) or even a conjecture or thesis.

Not to be pedantic here, but one can feel that there ought to be...or think/suppose that there ought to be...and that modality of knowing (feeling vs. thinking) can decide which word to use.

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