What single word describes how one feels when another person says something that doesn’t make sense?

I’ve often seen people use shaking my head or scratching my head (“smh”) online. I’m wondering what feelings/emotions pertain to “smh”.

I’m looking for a word that would denote a mild feeling/emotion more akin to when something is ridiculous, absurd, illogical, or laughable.

Example: So and so said something so laughable I feel _____.

  • What if it’s something that wouldn’t cause a feeling/emotion as strong as any of those? What word would denote a milder feeling/emotion?
    – Self
    Apr 20, 2020 at 20:22
  • I have, but I’m not finding feelings and emotions that fit. I’m looking for a feeling or emotion rather than adjectives.
    – Self
    Apr 20, 2020 at 20:28
  • 2
    Incredulity, perhaps?
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 20, 2020 at 20:32
  • 2
    You could be nonplussed
    – Jim
    Apr 20, 2020 at 21:14
  • 2
    Puzzled also works.
    – Xanne
    Apr 20, 2020 at 21:39

6 Answers 6


I've always equated smh with exasperation:

1 : the state of being exasperated

: having or showing strong feelings of irritation or annoyance

// an exasperated sigh

In other words, you're frustrated and can't believe there's a good reason behind something being the way it is. It annoys you.

For example:

Why do some small items always come in plastic packaging 10 times the size of the item itself, requiring minutes of effort with a sharp object to open? *smh*


It might depend on the reason for shaking one's head, but it could be dismay at what someone else just said or did, in which case the feeling might be consternation.

  • This would be improved with dictionary definitions for dismay and consternation (e.g. see Jason's answer) May 17, 2021 at 8:59

I think the two best words for it are unfortunately also two words that are frequently misused to mean something different:

Bemused: puzzled, confused, or bewildered.

Nonplussed: surprised and confused so much that they are unsure how to react.

  • +1 for bemused. I had never seen that definition of "nonplussed", though - in the US, it's typically used to mean the exact opposite, indicating that someone is unfazed or has no reaction whatsoever. Jun 16, 2021 at 16:12
  • @NuclearHoagie Hence my comment about them being frequently misused
    – Kevin
    Jun 16, 2021 at 18:04

Your question is a bit confusing. First you ask

What single word describes how one feels when another person says something that doesn’t make sense?

but then you give the example

So and so said something so laughable I feel _____.

So first, it is good to make a distinction between making no sense (nonsensical) and laughable (so ludicrous as to be amusing, OL).

Then you say in the comments you may be looking for a feeling rather than an adjective, and a milder one at that.

I am thinking of confusion (Macmillan)

(uncountable) a feeling that you do not understand something or cannot decide what to do

  • She stared at him in confusion.

Puzzlement could be considered slightly stronger, but it is not as strong as perplexity and bewilderment. It is defined as

a state of confusion because you do not understand something

  • My overall feeling when reading the book was puzzlement. (Cambridge)

However, these feelings will make sense as answers to the question stated in the title of the OP. So I would re-write your sentence as:

So and so said something so nonsensical that it left me confused/puzzled.

or with a noun

So and so said something so nonsensical that it left me with a feeling of confusion/puzzlement.

Addition: There is an even milder way in which you could express this feeling:

So and so said something so laughable/nonsensical that I was left wondering/ it left me wondering.


I always use Bewildered to describe that vague feeling of pleasant confusion. Scratching the head rarely helps but is still the habit.


I might find myself using the term Baffled in this scenario. it's fun to say.

totally bewilder or perplexed.

"an unexplained occurrence that baffled everyone"
  • 1
    totally bewildered or perplexed.
    – Lambie
    Jun 16, 2021 at 11:53

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