19

What word would describe someone who doesn't generally leave much of an impression on people?

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  • 39
    I probably wouldn't call them anything, since I wouldn't remember who you're talking about.... ;-)
    – Hellion
    Aug 9, 2011 at 21:48
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    How about Mr. Cellophane?
    – mattdwen
    Aug 10, 2011 at 3:40
  • Somehow related reading.
    – nico
    Aug 10, 2011 at 9:28
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    It's hard to remember words like that - they don't leave very much of an impression...
    – Franz
    Aug 10, 2011 at 10:12
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    @Hellion: very good point. Perhaps that's why no one word carries this precise meaning. Aug 10, 2011 at 13:29

19 Answers 19

47

"Bland" or "nondescript". Both have a connotation of not being memorable.

Of course, you could just go with "forgettable."

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    Bland isn't bad at all, though as I've said in another comment, I think "nondescript" strikes a better cord with what I was going for. Aug 9, 2011 at 21:21
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    Looking at the times answered you seem to be the first to say "nondescript", and given how well "bland" also fits I'll give you the tick. Aug 9, 2011 at 21:46
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    What if they left a lasting impression of being bland? Aug 9, 2011 at 22:39
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    Would you bother to remember that? :-p
    – cha0sys
    Aug 9, 2011 at 23:21
  • My initial reaction was "normal."
    – Toby
    Aug 10, 2011 at 14:28
28

'Unremarkable' comes to mind. As does 'unimpressive.'

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19

I'd suggest such a person would be called a nonentity.

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    Not bad at all. I'll give you the tick if no one has any better suggests soon :). I'd up vote you but I need 15 reputation. Aug 9, 2011 at 21:04
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    +1 for nonentity, but (if you agree with me) you might add that people whose vocabulary doesn't stretch that far are quite prone to call a nonentity a nobody. Aug 9, 2011 at 21:11
  • While I think this is clever, I think it bears too much of an emotional impact to be used in normal conversation. Calling someone a nonentity feels more like you are saying they literally don't exist...vs. describing them as someone who doesn't leave a lasting or significant impression. I think the selected answers "nondescript" is probably the best term, as it doesn't leave any question as to the persons existence...just their impression.
    – jrista
    Aug 14, 2011 at 2:51
19

Simply "forgettable" or "unmemorable" could work. I quite like "nondescript" too, for someone or something without any distinctive qualities.

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    Nondescript! That is definitely in te region that I was heading towards. Aug 9, 2011 at 21:19
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    “Unmemorable” and “forgettable” both seem excellent to me. You could even kick it up to the deliciously snarky cliché “eminently forgettable”.
    – PLL
    Aug 9, 2011 at 21:42
6

Not quite an answer to the question, but "milquetoast" is a wonderful related word.

4

A person who is easily overlooked is often called a "wallflower", although that term has other connotations as well.

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I'm not sure whether this applies to or makes sense in English. But the question reminded me instantly of a Japanese word. We call an unimpressive person Kagega Usui hito (影が薄い人) meaning person with thin shadow. The person doesn't have his presence even on his own shadow!

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A Nobody, or as the Beatles might say "Nowhere Man" (check out the lyrics)

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If I was was being poetic, I would call them "ephemeral" as in short-lived.

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People who leave no lasting impression are shallow.

(Both literally and figuratively.) :)

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A number of years ago I came across this book The Lexicon of Intentionally Ambiguous Recommendations: Positive-Sounding References for People Who Can't Manage Their Own Sock Drawers

Depending on your needs, it could be useful, e.g.

  • The impression s/he conveys to others is no act
  • He was with our firm a few years back, but I can't remember the dates he worked for us
  • I can't remember ever hearing a colleague complain about her work
  • I can't begin to tell you what a fine person she is.

To be more direct, perhaps I could suggest:

  • forgettable
  • unimpressive
1

The term colorless, in its sense "Lacking in interest or variety", sometimes is used to describe a person lacking in distinctive features or attributes.

Everyman, "the archetypical ordinary individual", is occasionally used too, as well as terms like Joe Average and Mr. Average.

1

A person that doesn't leave much of an impression on people is commonly considered dull.

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"Potato" comes to my mind. But you could flair them up by thinking of Mr/Mrs Potato head instead. After all people are not boring, it is our mind that makes them so.

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A few more ideas.

  • uncharacteristic
  • unimpressive
  • unnoteworthy

Depending upon the context, forgettable may be the best choice.

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"Ordinary" was one of my first thoughts.

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Such a person could be described as an extra.

-1

"Boring" comes to mind for me.

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    I tend to remember people who fall under that catagory to insure I'm not subjected to it again. I'm trying to get a word for someone who is neither boring nor interesting. Aug 9, 2011 at 21:04
  • Good point. In that case, I really like @chaosys' suggestion of "bland." (Funny thing -- I will probably remember "bland" somewhat vividly now!) Aug 9, 2011 at 22:01
  • -1: boring people are generally memorable
    – nico
    Aug 10, 2011 at 9:25
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    @Randolf: I also downvoted potato if that makes you feel better. I just don't like downvoting 3 answers at once (also because the SO system does not like serial downvoting). Dull has a slightly different acception, IMO, as it can also mean indistinct and muffled, although probably not referring to a person.
    – nico
    Aug 11, 2011 at 9:18
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    @Randolf: no problem at all
    – nico
    Aug 12, 2011 at 6:07
-1

I'd actually prefer the term transient.

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    That word often means "a homeless person", so probably isn't what you want to say. Aug 10, 2011 at 16:27
  • Although it means 'for a brief time', in most legal situations, it effectively means mobile or doesn't maintain a fixed location. eg, 'transient merchants', 'transient workers' (aka migrant labor). It suggests more that the person doesn't stay, rather than the memory of them doesn't persist.
    – Joe
    Aug 12, 2011 at 16:01
  • I never use the term for a homeless person. I've always used it to mean for a short time.... ie no trace left behind Aug 13, 2011 at 7:14
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    Transient means that the person is going to disappear soon. "Adjective: Lasting only for a short time; impermanent." (Your memory of the person may be transient, but the person is probably not transient.) Aug 15, 2011 at 17:24

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