I occasionally run in to the problem. Generally when I'm attempting to achieve something in programming which I know to be possible and also is likely to have been accomplished before. I generally find my specific problem is obviously not going to appear but to frame the problem in general terms makes it almost unintelligible to a person, never mind google. As an example - "How to check relevance of changes in each attribute to changes in the result"

Sadly attempting to Google the word to describe this phenomenon yielded no answer, possible in a very meta example of the described problem.

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    In slang terminology, some people would say that they have poor (skill at) Google-fu . . . – Jason Bassford Feb 8 '19 at 14:43
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    Try googling "sensitivity study" or "statistical correlation" – Jim Feb 8 '19 at 15:22
  • Sounds like you want a word for the phrase "weak Google-fu". See: english.stackexchange.com/questions/19967/… – L. Scott Johnson Feb 8 '19 at 16:39
  • Is it a word for trouble with a specific search, or a word for lack of google-skills in general? – Stefan Feb 8 '19 at 16:42
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    Are you referring to searching when you lack the specific jargon to find the problem? Like trying to implement inheritance in a class but not knowing what you're doing is called "inheritance". – tk421 Feb 8 '19 at 18:25

Is there a word for when you are attempting to google something but can't find the necessary phrase/key words to return the results you're after


It is an error to think that there is a word for everything in English. What you are doing is either

(i) "failing to ask the correct question of someone or something."


(ii) "failing to find the correct search term."

It is an error to think that there is a word for everything in English. If the word existed, it would also apply to any search/query.


We say that your search terms are too broad. You need to find a narrower search term.

  • That would apply if you were getting too many hits to the wrong topics so that the answer you wanted was buried in many other hits. It would not apply if the thing you really needed was not called what you thought. So even if you looked at a huge number of the hits your search found you would not find what you wanted. – puppetsock Feb 8 '19 at 19:13
  • @puppetsock: So OP is asking for a word that means "I don't what the word for this thing is?" – TRomano Feb 8 '19 at 19:16

There probably isn't a single word for this.

As TRomano suggests, a too broad search will give you vast quantities of unrelated hits.


How to program in C++

How to open an input stream in C++

The first will get you lots and lots of hits, and somewhere in there probably you will find, after heroic efforts, the information from the second.

But several other things are possible. For example: Used the wrong name for the concept. Recently I wanted to know how to write a good scripting language. So I searched for this

how to write a good scripting language

And I got tons of hits on how to break into writing for TV. Along with tons of references to existing scripting languages such as Python, PERL, and JAVA. But when I changed my search to this

how to implement a domain specific language

then the search results had ten useful hits right at the top. There are many ways to express this. Mis-focused search, inaccurate search, poorly targeted search, conceptually inaccurate search, terminologically inaccurate search, etc.

Generally, if you search for a phrase that the Google search people have noticed being searched for, you are going to get useful hits at the top. Otherwise, you will be in relatively uncharted territory. So this means terms like out of bounds, unexpected, into unprepared territory, etc.

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