I'm looking for a single word for describing someone who always speaks words incorrectly so that nobody but ones who are familiar with his disorder may understand him. I'm not sure if there is a word for this I hope there is. Thanks

  • Presumably, you mean speaks, not spell?
    – Mick
    Dec 30, 2016 at 12:17
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    You probably mean dyslexia : a variable often familial learning disability involving difficulties in acquiring and processing language that is typically manifested by a lack of proficiency in reading, spelling, and writing. merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dyslexia
    – user66974
    Dec 30, 2016 at 12:19
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    There is dyslalia, but as a medical term, this may not be what you are looking for
    – Mick
    Dec 30, 2016 at 12:29
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    Choose the appropriate term(s) in Speech and Language Disorders: Types and Symptoms
    – Graffito
    Dec 30, 2016 at 12:55
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    @Graffito, I am guessing this is either from an old textbook or perhaps terms are used very, very differently in the UK, because I am a US Speech-Language Pathologist and I can tell you for sure most of these terms are NOT in use. Plus, the website is a blog for a commercial product. Dec 30, 2016 at 17:43

2 Answers 2


There is dyslalia:

dyslalia [mass noun] Medicine

Inability to articulate comprehensible speech, especially when associated with the use of private words or sounds.


Mid 19th century: from dys- ‘difficult’ + Greek lalia speech.

Oxford Living Dictionaries

  • Are people with dyslalia called dyslalian ?
    – user210388
    Dec 30, 2016 at 12:43
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    I don't know, but I would guess it's dyslalic, considering other medical terminology, such as dyslexia and dyslexic. I couldn't include it in my answer, though, without reference material.
    – Mick
    Dec 30, 2016 at 12:46
  • As a speech-language pathologist I will say that nobody uses this term. The only place I've ever seen it is in (1) billing or diagnostic codes, (2) very old works. Dec 30, 2016 at 15:22
  • @REKT, no, "dyslalic" is not a term that would be likely to be used. Dec 30, 2016 at 15:32

In the field of Speech-Language Pathology, speech that cannot be understood by a listener is referred to as unintelligible, which Merriam-Webster defines as

impossible to understand.

There is not a specific word for a person who speaks unintelligibly. In this field, as in many human services fields, there is a preference to use language that puts the person--not the disorder--first, in writing that is meant to be read by the client or family. In casual, non-professional conversation, you could say

She's unintelligible.


Her speech is unintelligible.

The second example makes it slightly more clear that the speech itself, not the word choice or grammar, is where the problem is.

Dyslalia (M-W medical dictionary) is a term that was popular in the beginnings of the field of Speech-Language Pathology, but in the last 17 years as an SLP I have never seen the term used except in billing and diagnostic codes, which sometimes hold onto historical language. This Google Ngram shows a spike for dyslalia in the 1940s-50s, followed by declining usage.

There are other terms that are more specific about the origin of the unintelligibility, but they are specialized terms that would be unlikely to be used in casual/non-professional conversation.

  • Thanks but I will not use it in a daily conversation or an essay. So I accepted it
    – user210388
    Dec 30, 2016 at 16:59

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