What is an adjective that describes something very visually crowded or busy? Cacophonous is perfect, but it describes sound.

  • 4
    Jackson Pollock ;) – Rae Sep 14 '11 at 1:06
  • 'busy' is the first thing that came to my mind from your title question. Are you looking for something coined from Ancient Greek? – Mitch Aug 17 '12 at 21:48

12 Answers 12


Depending on your specific situation, I think chaos, confusion, turmoil, and tumult all have the chance to do nicely. However, I also like the potential for metaphor here; if you can use it in this context, why not just use cacophony or visual cacophony? We even use loud in English to describe brightly colored things; sound can be used to express a visual experience so intense that it seems to bleed into the other senses.

  • "Tumult" is a good word. I've never heard it before! – Maxpm Sep 14 '11 at 1:28
  • 1
    Agreed. Aural descriptives have been commonly used to describe visual effects for as long as we have a written record. I see nothing wrong with the metaphor as it stands. "Tumult", in fact, is fundamentally an aural descriptive; the other words work just as well. – Kyle Pearson Sep 14 '11 at 5:35
  • I was considering using "visual cacophony" and this answer assures me I'm not alone. @KylePearson I'm reminded of the onomatopoetic "bling!" that is used for diamonds or sharp swords. – TecBrat Jun 28 '17 at 18:24

Perhaps one could describe the thing as "cluttered":

1.Scattered with a disorderly mixture of objects; littered

For example, "The table top was cluttered with an endless amount of items"

There also the other examples of croweded, messy, littered, dishevel, scrambled(like scrambled egg), and my personal favourite, topsy-turvy



motley n. pl. motleys:

  1. The parti-colored attire of a court jester.
  2. A heterogeneous, often incongruous mixture of elements.

(Definition courtesy of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)


Yiddish has the wonderful word ungapatchka, which means overdone, garish, distastefully ornate, or over-the-top; I think it's exactly what you're looking for. Too bad it doesn't have the currency in English that some other Yiddish words do.

"Garish" is not a bad English word for this, come to think of it!


Garish is the closest I can think of.

Cacography describes bad handwriting or scribbling. You could help reenforce cacovisual as a new word. It was coined elsewhere but only has two English references on the web according to Google.

You might describe it as assaulting (one's senses), or a visual train-wreck.

Some related words and phrases are groteque and eye sore.


You asked for a single word, but your own "visual cacophony" hits the nail squarely on the head. I can visualise that dischordant mess immediately!


Down south, we say "gaudy", and although this tends to be a term of disparagement used against presumptuous decor and attire it is often extended to other situations, as well.

"The colors they used in that mall architecture were just gaudy; i can't look at the place for longer than two minutes, and it give me a headache."


Cornucopia may suit if it's a positive abundance of things. Although not what you are looking for I expect!

Cornucopia is a noun though (as is cacophony)

  • This word does not seem to fit the bill. The definition I have is "an abundant, overflowing supply." – American Luke Sep 27 '12 at 1:56

Perhaps the noun form of spattering, which means to have many distinct elements spread chaotically over a surface, e.g. a spattering of paint on a canvas.


Be careful with the word tumult — that describes noise as well!

A "visual tumult" doesn't sound as good as a "visual cacophony". Depending on the situation, we could use a number of terms. I'd go with "a riot of (something)", be it colour or whatever the visual focus is that is so cacophonous.


I would see this word in the reviews of black metal bands: Carnivalesque.

Also: maddening, phantasmagoric (if you want to bend them).

  • Please could you edit this answer to include some citations, e.g. links to dictionary definitions of these words? Thanks! – Rand al'Thor Jul 3 '17 at 22:43

David Brin appears to have coined the word cacophote in his book Sundiver, to refer to a visual cacophony.

See this excerpt from the book. I instantly understood the meaning upon reading it, but the word does not appear in the OED, and a google search turns up only this passage.

  • Hi, could you add some links or references to this answer please? Answers here are generally expected to have some sort of backup. – Rand al'Thor Jul 3 '17 at 22:47
  • @Randal'Thor I tried editing, but it has been placed on peer review. I answered this question before creating an account, which may be causing some issue. – Jim Conant Jul 4 '17 at 0:03
  • @Randal'Thor In any event, a google search will turn up cacophote in Brin's book, but it is not in the OED. – Jim Conant Jul 4 '17 at 0:04
  • 2
    @JimConant Yep, it looks like you now have two separate accounts, which is why you needed peer review to edit your own posts. Please see the instructions here for how to merge your accounts; this will enable you to edit your own posts freely and comment on any post. (In the meantime, I've voted to approve your pending edit.) – Rand al'Thor Jul 4 '17 at 0:07
  • Ah the mysterious downvote. – Jim Conant Jul 4 '17 at 0:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.