In Hebrew, my native language, we have a word describing the inability of one to focus on a certain task and instead thinking or doing one or many related/unrelated things. This word roughly translates to "being scattered" or "being dispersed". Are there any other more appropriate words to describe such thing?

Note: if this word can be used in the context of not speaking to the point during a conversation it also fits the usage of the Hebrew one.

  • As a father, I would have to say Teenagerness :-)
    – user45532
    Apr 23, 2018 at 11:34
  • How about seeing ghosts? Taking paths which seem like invisible leaps to others because they don't see them. Apr 24, 2018 at 9:11

7 Answers 7


The word closest to the examples you already gave is scatterbrained:


: having or showing a forgetful, disorganized, or unfocused mind : having the characteristics of a scatterbrain

  • 2
    I like this answer more than any other here. While other answers are talking about the manifestation, this answer is closer to describing the cause of the manifestation. Apr 23, 2018 at 4:23

"Distracted" is the word you are looking for, where you are not concentrated. That's when while doing one task your mind reacts to what your eyes are watching and what you are thinking, you get drawn away from your task, and you get distracted by other things.

  • Yes. I sometimes have difficulty focusing, and it's that focused/distracted dichotomy (or continuum) that comes into play.
    – Mathieu K.
    Apr 23, 2018 at 4:30


I can't find a good dictionary definition of this, but this book title shows pretty clearly how it can be used for your concept:

Smart but Scattered: The Revolutionary "Executive Skills" Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential

all over the place

This phrase works great for the context you're interested in. Example:

John's comments included some interesting points, but he was all over the place and in the end he didn't help our case. I think we should leave him off the speaker list for next time.

Finally, the most obvious word:


(needs no explanation; usage: the same as "all over the place")

Edit (4/23): There is another one gaining traction in the US at least:

ADHD (as an adjective)

This is an acronym for a neurodevelopmental diagnosis, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, which is a subtype of ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder. Example showing how it's starting to be used in the US:

Prof. X is a good teacher but if you want to get questions answered in office hours, make sure you bring a written list of your questions with you. Keep coming back to your list if he goes off on ADHD tangents.

Be careful with this one. It hasn't lost the stigma everywhere yet.

  • I like the all over the place phrase; seems very apt here.
    – k1eran
    Apr 23, 2018 at 18:13
  • 1
    @k1eran - Well, I have such a person in my family and have experience explaining his nature to people. Usually I say that he's wired differently than the bell curve. But there are lots of pluses. Apr 23, 2018 at 19:39
  • "It hasn't lost the stigma everywhere yet." You expect it to?
    – Beanluc
    Apr 23, 2018 at 22:19
  • @Beanluc - Maybe not expect, but hope -- yes, definitely, why not? Look what Tim Howard has done to destigmatize Tourette Syndrome. Apr 24, 2018 at 1:33
  • You weren't talking about destigmatizing the condition, you were talking about destigmatizing the abuse of the condition's name. Calling someone Tourette's doesn't destigmatize the condition, I'd tend to think it does the complete opposite.
    – Beanluc
    Apr 24, 2018 at 20:48

The person is:

  • absentminded;
  • inattentive;
  • miles away (informal);
  • in a world of his/her own (informal); and,
  • (maybe) daydreaming.

I like the above suggestions better, even though, per any dictionary, these all are synonyms of 'distracted' which already exists as an answer in this thread.


to wander TFD

(of the mind, thoughts, etc) to lose concentration or direction

As in:

He frequently wandered off the point during our conversation.


As to the sense of "not speaking to the point during a conversation", you could say prevaricate, or more informally "beating around the bush", but these don't extend to the other sense you mean.


Distractible (also distractable) Easily distracted.


in fact easily-distracted is useful in its own right.

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