If something is out of place in time, we call it anachronistic. I want a word that means something lacks meaning or context because of geographic or conceptual displacement rather than chronological displacement.

Searches on websites like Stack Exchange have suggested:

  • anomalous
  • incongruous
  • unmeaning
  • uncromulent

Anomalous and incongruous seem wrong to me because they imply something is abnormal. I want to say something is done whose meaning is lost or unknown because of displaced context without implying it is abnormal.

I'm not sure about "unmeaning" or "uncromulent". Anyone have other suggestions? Or can you suggest a neologism formed from a- or an- !


I should have given an example...

Imagine you go into the home of someone who only speaks English and has a strong penchant for interior decorating. The person has placed a Chinese language cookbook in their kitchen to decorate the kitchen. The cookbook is not truly out of place because it is where it is supposed to be. However, its original purpose has been lost by being removed from the context of Chinese language speakers. This is the kind of situation I am trying find a word for.

My actual use would be describing Xmas decorations in Asia, but I don't want to get sidetracked by the accusation I am suggesting Asians can't put up Xmas decorations. That is NOT what I'm suggesting, just that the decoration's original or intrinsic meaning is lost when nobody knows anything about Xmas.

I think perhaps "anachorism" is closest, although the thing is not really in an incorrect place.

I tried to come up with some neologisms by combining ana- with Greek words meaning "understandable" or "dwelling place" but nothing really sounded good.

I did find another word "enchorial", but unenchorial would mean non-native, and focus on the place rather than the object. I don't want to say the objects don't belong here but that this place doesn't make sense of the objects.

  • Strange ought to work. But it would help if you added a sample sentence to provide context. This reminds me of the joke about why you cut the ends off of sausages. After young-un asks siss, siss asks mom, mom phones gran, gran says "Are you still using that stupid little pan?"
    – Phil Sweet
    Dec 11, 2018 at 4:08
  • 2
    Maybe something like uncontextualized? When you first mentioned physical location, I thought of ectopic.
    – ralph.m
    Dec 11, 2018 at 4:19
  • Uncromulent!! +1 embiggening your rep in response :) en.wiktionary.org/wiki/cromulent
    – Andi Mohr
    Dec 11, 2018 at 11:27
  • Chris, you appear to have two SE accounts, so perhaps you haven't read the comments on the answer you posted. Please consider deleting that answer. :-) Dec 13, 2018 at 2:47

4 Answers 4


Although not found in the online Merriam-Webster or Oxford dictionaries, one word is anachorism:

[Collins Dictionary]

a geographical misplacement; something located in an incongruous position

Another word is anatopism.


n. A thing that is out of its proper place; the geographic counterpart to anachronism.

It's also not found in the public Merriam-Webster or Oxford dictionaries. Although it seems the OED does list it, I don't have access to that.

As a second-hand citation, an archived entry of a post to alt.languages.english recorded at the Narkive Newsgroup Archive shows this is what is (or was) in the online OED:

A putting of a thing out of its proper place, a faulty arrangement. 1812 COLERIDGE Rem. I. 317 In arranging which [books] the puzzled librarian must ommit an anachronism in order to avoid an anatopism.
1850 DE QUINCEY Wks. XVI. 72 Geographical blunders, or what might be called anatopisms.

  • "A putting of a thing" is not the thing.
    – Kris
    Dec 11, 2018 at 8:01

Here's a longish answer with some speculative neologisms:

On further searching on Stack Exchange, I also found 2 other questions asking for words similar to although different from mine:

This one wants to know about something out of place culturally, as a kiss in a movie depicting an unaffectionate culture. The suggestions were "anatopism" and "anaculturism". The post has a lot of sourced examples for anatopism.

This one wants to know something that is out of place geographically--i.e., doesn't fit in with its surroundings. The suggestions were "anatopism", "incongruous", and "anachorism".

My explanation of what I is in the edit above. Below is a list of the neologisms I came up with, their Greek roots, and what they would generally mean. However, on further reflection, I think I may have just been overthinking what I wanted to say and, perhaps, the word "decontextualized" captures adequately the meaning I wanted to convey.

anenchoric Χώρα -- foreign, non-native

anascinic σκηνή -- not fitting its location

anacatastasic κατάσταση ; anaperistasic περίσταση ; anacatoicic κατοικία -- inappropriate for its current circumstance

kenic/kentic κενός ; anamenoimic με νοημα ; anasimasic σημασία ; ananoisic νόηση -- lacking sense or meaningfulness

I have no idea what rules these "words" might break. For example, I like "anasimasic", meaning "without anything signaling meaning", but I think it could also mean something like "amazing", which wouldn't be what I mean.

I also like "kenic/kentic", meaning something like empty. There is a close theological word referring to the emptying of one nature in order to take on another nature, and that is actually very close to what I am trying to say is happening with Xmas decorations in Asia. However, the words feels kind of clunky to me.

I will probably use "anachoric," although the meaning is not really exactly right for me.

Thanks again to responders.


Consider saying that the practice of decorating at Christmas has become culturally unmoored from its origins.

This uses the term unmoored figuratively.

unmoored verb : to loosen from or as if from moorings - M-W

Here’s a published example:

Yet, without a broader peacebuilding ethic, even a restrictive just war analysis risks becoming a sort of procedural check-list unmoored from its deeper foundations in social ethics. - From Just War to Modern Peace Ethics, edited by Heinz-Gerhard Justenhoven, William A. Barbieri, Jr.


How about acontextual (M-W): not occurring in, relating to, determined by, or conforming to a particular context

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