Is there a word for when you can build something like an engine but don’t quite know how it works; you are just replicating it from instructions written decades before.

Basically like a hyperdrive from Star Wars.

Obi-Wan Kenobi examined the hyperdrive but it was _ and nobody knew how it worked.

  • 1
    Can you update the question to add more details about the context in which you want to use this word. And include an example sentence.
    – Jim
    Jun 13 at 5:25
  • I understand the concept, but I don't think there's a specific word or phrase for it.
    – Barmar
    Jun 14 at 0:42
  • Either you're building by rote, or you're building a black box that gives results though you don't know how it works. Jun 15 at 14:45

2 Answers 2


"Rote" processes are those that are done mechanically, without necessarily knowing details, the purpose, etc. For example:

The engineers built the hyperdrive by rote, not truly comprehending what they were doing.

Note that your example sentence (involving Obi-Wan Kenobi) involves examining a product that has already been built, whereas your title asks about the construction of a product. The concept of "rote" construction would apply to the latter but not to the former.


At least for your example, I'd go with "incomprehensible". Or perhaps, "baffling".

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