There are many ways to describe hypothetical situations, but they all center around the sense of sight:

  • Envision
  • Imagine
  • Picture

Are there others that don't involve sight? It feels incorrect to say that a blind person "envisions something," so I'm looking for words that are sense-neutral.

It also feels inappropriate to "picture how this food tastes." Are there words for imagining a hypothetical smell, touch, taste, or sound?

  • Thanks for all the comments about being oversensitive to blind people. I wasn't trying to frame my question in terms of avoiding insult to the blind; I was more thinking, aesthetically, how weird it was that all the words for imagination etymologically relied on the concept of vision. But I'm very happy to have learned that blind people use vision words without issue.
    – Jonathan
    Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 14:05
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – tchrist
    Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 15:32

6 Answers 6



"Think how this food would taste"

Here are some other non-specific words that might be useful. I started the trail by searching for synonyms of imagine and then selecting non-visual ones.

conceptualise conceptual (adj.) "pertaining to mental conception," 1820 (there is an isolated use from 1662), from Medieval Latin conceptualis, from Latin conceptus "a collecting, gathering, conceiving," past participle of concipere "to take in" (see conceive).

figure (v.) late 14c., "to represent" (in painting or sculpture), "make a likeness," also "to have a certain shape or appearance," from Old French figurer, from Latin figurare "to form, shape" (from PIE root *dheigh- "to form, build").

consider (v.) late 14c., "to fix the mind upon for careful examination, meditate upon,"


Meaning "take into the mind, form a correct notion of" is from mid-14c., that of "form as a general notion in the mind" is from late 14c., figurative senses also found in the Old French and Latin words. Related: Conceived; conceiving.

guess (v.) c. 1300, gessen "to infer from observation, perceive, find out; form an opinion, judge, decide, discern;

A few more: anticipate, conjecture, speculate, surmise, suspect, entertain, ponder.


  1. All the above derivations are from etymonline.com - I gave them to show that the words did not specifically originate from ideas of "sight".

  2. I may return to this list if any more occur to me.

  • Thanks for all the examples and their etymologies. I would still love to find an example that is specific a sense other than sight, but all these are sense-neutral which is very helpful.
    – Jonathan
    Commented Dec 13, 2020 at 16:19
  • 3
    It is remarkable how difficult this is. One solution is of course to add, "mentally" or "in your mind", as in, "Mentally taste what this food will be like." However, I have hit a new trail that might serve. I think it might be worth starting a new answer. Commented Dec 13, 2020 at 17:35
  • Yes! Thank you for being so intrigued by this puzzle. I've thought about this for months before deciding to post it here.
    – Jonathan
    Commented Dec 13, 2020 at 19:23
  • Consider adding Tactile ? Then there's how things Sound.
    – J.Hirsch
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 21:01

I suggest conjure . Here is how M-W defines the word—

to bring to mind

words that conjure pleasant images—often used with up

conjure up memories

  • 1
    Nice. Very poetic! Commented Dec 13, 2020 at 14:00
  • The problem with "conjure up ___" is that you still haven't filled in the blank. You can't say simply "*Conjure up how this food will taste" (at least, I wouldn't) and the given example of "conjure pleasant images" goes right back to the visual metaphor. IOW, "conjure" is a good synonym for "evoke" or "generate," but it doesn't carry any more of the load than that. Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 15:39

You ask for words that are specific to senses other than vision. Here's the start of a list of possibilities. Note that most are prepositional verbs. If you remove the verb and the preposition, you can replace any of them with "imagine".

"Chew over how this food will taste"

"Kick around the notion of becoming a professional footballer"

"Ruminate on the idea of taking cookery lessons"

"Weigh up how it would feel to be skinnier"

"Wrestle with the idea of giving up smoking"

"Congratulations on your new job. Take a moment to forecast your progress during the coming year."

  • 2
    These are very clever! I think that “chew over” and “ruminate on” are pretty synonymous in their connotations, and I like it.
    – Jonathan
    Commented Dec 13, 2020 at 19:20
  • 3
    I struggled with the sense of smell. The best I could come up with was, "Look at all these cars and yachts! Can you get a sniff of what it would be like to be rich?" Commented Dec 13, 2020 at 22:07
  • 2
    "Can you smell what The Rock is cooking?" Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 14:13
  • 1
    "catching a whiff" is often used to mean getting a small piece of information which makes you suspect something.
    – tgdavies
    Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 4:27

You can also use


Definitions in Oxford Languages:

  1. contemplate or conceive of as a possibility or a desirable future event.

The Rome Treaty envisaged free movement across frontiers.

  1. form a mental picture of (something not yet existing or known).

He knew what he liked but had difficulty envisaging it.

If you look at its etymology, you will find that it has nothing to do with sight, but with the French visage that means face, countenance.

Edit: I just realised that I hadn't read the question carefully and did not realise you were looking for a word which can go with smell, touch, taste, or sound. In this particular context, one can say:

I can anticipate or predict or judge how this food tastes.

To say that I know how the food tastes, before tasting it. Check the link for more synonyms, among which many have nothing to do with sight.

  • 7
    Not to nitpick, but visage does derive from the latin "videre" - to see
    – insanity
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 9:00
  • 1
    Yeah, it's basically envision
    – mbomb007
    Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 20:02

How about simply, Think about? For example: Think about being near the lake; being in the woods; being in your kitchen. Or tell me about? Describe?

I would imagine the person responding might describe sounds, smells, etc.

  • simple and to the point. :)
    – mishan
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 11:52

I believe 'consider' to be the most useful example. It implies the use of whatever information or evidence is available in order to reach a conclusion and is sense non-specific.

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