I'm trying to figure out a word that describes subconsciously knowing something from experience. My initial attempt was "instinct", but that has more gifted and primal connotations.

The use case I had in mind was as follows:

"If we assume that the model is applicable, it tells us what we've ________ known for a while [...]"


The word that fits best for my use case seems to be intuitively.

Another good one was empirically, but it tends to imply there were some experiments carried out to glean the knowledge, which wasn't the case.

  • 1
    There are different kinds of "knowing." Do you mean knowing how to do something (e.g. putting on a coat), or knowing a piece of information (e.g. what the capital of Oregon is), or something different? More context, plus an example sentence showing how you would use the word/phrase, are important for getting the answer you're looking for. Jan 7, 2017 at 23:24
  • @KatherineLockwood "knowing" as in a piece of information, I've added an example and edited the tags accordingly.
    – ffledgling
    Jan 9, 2017 at 9:23

7 Answers 7


How about conditioned?


condition: train or accustom to behave in a certain way or to accept certain circumstances: ‘our minds are heavily conditioned and circumscribed by habit’ [with object and infinitive] ‘they are beliefs which he has been conditioned to accept’ ‘social conditioning’

More example sentences

‘We have become conditioned into being, behaving, reacting to any situation in a certain way, and we perpetuate this conditioning by the way we think.’

‘They are beliefs which he has been conditioned to accept.’

Conditioned fits the sense of knowing something but without being conscious of it.

Update: Based on your edits to the question, how about intuitive?


intuitive: using or based on what one feels to be true even without conscious reasoning; instinctive

Your example:

"If we assume that the model is applicable, it tells us what we've known intuitively for a while [...]"

One develops intuition based on experience. For example, chemists often speak of chemical intuition when speculating on the outcome of chemical reactions.

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    This question is off-topic because it does not explain how the word will be used. Please don't answer off-topic questions. Jan 8, 2017 at 1:03
  • @curiousdannii added use-case, sorry about that.
    – ffledgling
    Jan 8, 2017 at 8:00
  • @Richard Kayser, conditioned is good, but I would like explicitly avoid the connotations of someone having actively tried to play a part.
    – ffledgling
    Jan 8, 2017 at 8:19
  • @ffledglingYour rewording changed the meaning of the question. Jan 8, 2017 at 14:32
  • @RichardKayser, it did indeed, I apologize for that, should've framed the question better. Intuitive was indeed the word I was looking for.
    – ffledgling
    Jan 10, 2017 at 10:04

As per the example sentence, practically/empirically fits here.

"If we assume that the model is applicable, it tells us what we've practically/empirically known for a while [...]"


practically adv

2. in actuality rather than in theory: what can we do practically to help?.

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


empirically ADVERB

By means of observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic.

‘But let me say loud and clear that this idea is theoretical and to my knowledge has not been studied empirically.’

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    +1 for empirically, since it looks like what the asker is looking for is actually an adverb . I am, however, neutral on "practically"... This might interest some.
    – m.a.a.
    Jan 8, 2017 at 11:08

Noun: know-how ('now,haw)

The (technical) knowledge and skill required to do something

  • knowledge

Derived forms: know-hows

Type of: ability, power

-- WordWebOnline

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    This question is off-topic because it does not explain how the word will be used. Please don't answer off-topic questions. Jan 8, 2017 at 1:03

Implicit knowledge might work. Implicit most often means something that is understood but not stated outright, which is somewhat like your description of un/subconsciously knowing, but there are also more specialized usages that are closer.

Specifically, this sounds similar to the psychological concepts of implicit memory and implicit learning.

Implicit memory is sometimes referred to as unconscious memory or automatic memory. Implicit memory uses past experiences to remember things without thinking about them. The performance of implicit memory is enabled by previous experiences, no matter how long ago those experiences occurred. —Kim Ann Zimmermann, "Implicit Memory: Definition and Examples", Live Science

According to Wikipedia,

It is acquired and used unconsciously, and can affect thoughts and behaviours.

Implicit learning is a bit more controversial, but it also fits your meaning. From Wikipedia:

Implicit learning is the learning of complex information in an incidental manner, without awareness of what has been learned.

Thus, in your sentence:

If we assume that the model is applicable, it tells us what we've implicitly known for a while.


Perceptually, based on the definition provided by Collins Online, could also fill the blank if empirically fails to stimulate the literary senses.

According to Collins:

the process by which an organism detects and interprets information from the external world by means of the sensory receptors.

The meaning provided here is 5th on the list

Hence, one can reasonably conclude that one or more of parts of your sensory nervous system were involved in the acquisition of this knowledge or experiencing of a particular phenomenon.


Two words that come to my mind are "wisdom" and "sapience".

As per wikipedia, these words refer to the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight. This is the definition taken from wikipedia.


I would suggest:

Experiential Learning.

The process of learning through experience.

There are some examples under the entry for experiential in ODO.

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