Is there a word or slang word that can be used to describe something that is invisible on its own and in numbers it is visible?

For example:

One bacterium is hard to see (invisible to the naked eye) but when there is a huge population of bacteria it can be seen (visible to the naked eye)

I used the concept of bacteria to further my point but I don't necessarily mean microscopic organisms.


Another example:

One star is hard to see from a distance but when you look at a galaxy (collection of stars) from the same distance visibility is significantly increased.

The use of the word would be in terms of population.

An individual alone in a population vs a large group in a population.

  • 2
    Microscopic comes to min.
    – Mick
    Commented Dec 7, 2017 at 9:58
  • 5
    Your example is explaining the concept, but it doesn't really tell me how you want to use the word. Can you provide a sentence of how your hypothetical word would be used?
    – jxh
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 21:01
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    @Fendec you can also add an other example using a star and a galaxy at a same distance.
    – Ubi.B
    Commented Aug 6, 2018 at 15:17
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    Voting to close, since asker seems unresponsive to requests to update the question with additional information. That said, consider infinitesimal, used in mathematics to refer to a vanishingly small quantity, yet when aggregated (with an integral) yields a measurable value.
    – jxh
    Commented Oct 26, 2018 at 17:37
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    Such a word, if it existed, would be, as they say, a much needed gap in the lexicon. A single word for such a complex concept is not necessary; simply say 'undetectable when alone but visible in groups'.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 25, 2019 at 17:11

2 Answers 2


Following your descriptions, the word "gestalt" (borrowed from German - meaning "greater pattern" or "sum of it's individual parts") would seem to come close in meaning.

The individual components (single stars), being relatively unnoticeable alone, become very noticeable within the gestalt of a galaxy.

The individual components (single bacteria), being relatively unnoticeable alone, become quite visible in a visible gestalt forming bacterial colonies.



I don't think there's a word for that, not in English anyway. It's up to you to describe the concept elegantly, which you do. Your examples are very good. Something that is visible only in numbers . . .

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