Is there a native English word (or borrowed word, or word in another language for that matter) meaning:

A depression resulting from the insight that I will not understand many things.

Example Usage awe-based-depression:

"Upon reading through his classmate's mathematical proof, the profound beauty of the thought process revealed left him with a sense of awe-based-depression."

"After a year of study in medicine she felt a sense of awe-based-depression at the unfathomable complexity of the biochemistry of life."

3 Answers 3


There is "deflation"


To deflate:

2. a. intransitive. To ‘climb down’; to lose spirit, confidence, etc.

1933 T. E. Lawrence Lett. (1938) 772 ‘Mr. Garnett’ said the village postman importantly ‘is gone to Spain.’ ‘Mr. Garnett is unfortunate’ I replied..and the postman deflated.

1960 L. Wright Clean & Decent 264 We may or may not deflate when a statistician tells us that of our neighbours on a London bus today, one in five never takes a bath.

And from this there is the noun "deflation" in the senses "of the loss of spirit, confidence, etc.**

1944 H. G. Wells '42 to '44 157 Maybe his mental trouble is not hopeless. He may be cured by his deflation.

1958 G. J. Warnock Eng. Philos. since 1900 xiii. 173 The contemporary philosopher's eye is characteristically cold and his pen, perhaps, apt to be employed as an instrument of deflation.

And thus

"Upon reading through his classmate's mathematical proof, the profound beauty of the thought process revealed left him with a sense of deflation."

  • This is an excellent response. But deflation misses the feeling of existential despair. I may cross list a related question on the Philosophy Stack Exchange to see if I can better elaborate/bring more relevant context into my question. Deflated is excellent in the sense that it captures the prior emotional/thought of being inflated: for the optimism of understanding that precedes the pessimism is well captured by inflated vs deflated.
    – auerbachb
    Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 18:42

The noun inadequacy and its adjective inadequate are used in the context that you define.

"Upon reading through his classmate's mathematical proof, the profound beauty of the thought process revealed left him with a sense of inadequacy."

inadequacy = the quality or state of being inadequate

Merriam Webster

There are many examples of usage online. I only quote one chosen to illustrate the association of inadequacy with the drawing an unflattering comparison of oneself with others:

No one knows the full extent of someone else’s life, experiences, thoughts, issues, or other events playing out behind the scenes. Comparing your life story to someone else’s highlight reel is not healthy and can create warped and often unjustified feelings of inadequacy.


  • Your answer is very helpful; however, what I'm getting at is the despair about not knowing, it's somewhere at the juncture of existentialism and epistemology. Perhaps it could be called "epistemic despair." I will check on the philosophy stack exchange. does this clarify further? Should I update the question?
    – auerbachb
    Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 18:07
  • Thank you. I now see how far you want to push the meaning towards despair and desolation. I regret that I cannot find one word from my own vocabulary to cover it. I like your own neat phrase and I wonder if anyone will come up with anything better. Your question was clear and I doubt that constraining it a little more as in your comment will make it any easer to answer!
    – Anton
    Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 18:16

I don't think there is.

The closest word that I can think of is the word sublime. This is the emotion felt by someone confronted by something that is awesome, that is of great aesthetic, intellectual or moral value. The person is carried away onto another and higher plane of existence and feels exalted.

  • 1
    @MozibutUllah Your thoughts are relevant but they stop well short of an answer. Exaltation and higher planes of existence are not signs of depression.
    – Anton
    Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 10:29

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