Dictionary defines denial in a few senses, the ones I'm interested in are:

  • refusal to believe a doctrine, theory, or the like.
  • disbelief in the existence or reality of a thing.
  • refusal to recognize or acknowledge.

In particular, I mean unreasonable disbelief in reality of a thing which is definitely, objectively real.

Now, I want to say:

Denial is a horrible [what?]

trait of character? (not really, it's specific, not encompassing whole personality) vice? (same) belief? idea? (no, it's a property of a belief or idea...)

How would you classify it?

  • 6
    I'm not entirely clear what you mean by "hypernym" here. Denial and, for example, acceptance, are both covered by the more general term "reaction". But you seem to be looking for a hypernym to cover only and all reactions involving rejection of a generally-accepted truth. I'm not convinced "hypernym" is appropriate in this context. Oct 19, 2012 at 21:25
  • @FumbleFingers: Quite possible that I misused that word here. If you have a better suggestion, I'm all ears.
    – SF.
    Oct 19, 2012 at 21:37
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    It's not so much the word "hypernym" that I'm questioning - it's the very idea that since there are many different ways someone can "reject a generally-accepted truth", and many ways to describe such reactions, there might be (ought to be?) a "hypernym" covering all of them. I could be wrong, but I think all you'll get is subjective answers reflecting people's attitudes to whatever they associate with "unorthodox rejection". Oct 19, 2012 at 23:26
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    You really mean 'being in denial' (is horrible), not 'denial' itself.
    – Kris
    Oct 20, 2012 at 3:57

8 Answers 8


Denial is a horrible state of mind or a horrible defence mechanism or a horrible mental/emotional condition.

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    +1 for state of mind - also, denial is sometimes useful, at least temporarily Oct 20, 2012 at 2:09
  • +1 for "defense mechanism" which denial is undeniably a case of. This directly answers OP's question.
    – MetaEd
    Oct 21, 2012 at 4:06

Denial can be many things, including an attitude or orientation towards life or orientation towards reality.


The type of denial you are referencing seems to fit under the characterization of intentional obliviousness. The word oblivious is defined as

not aware of or concerned about what is happening around one:

While obliviousness can sometimes be seem as accidental or inadvertent, I would characterize deliberate obliviousness as a mindset

the established set of attitudes held by someone:
the region seems stuck in a medieval mindset

  • +1 for mindset; I think that's my favorite out of everything suggested so far.
    – J.R.
    Oct 20, 2012 at 9:14

You might say, “Denial is a horrible stance.”

Consider NOAD's definition of the word:

stance - the attitude of a person or organization toward something; a standpoint

My Mac's on-board thesaurus offers these synonyms:

attitude, stand, point of view, viewpoint, opinion, way of thinking, outlook, standpoint, position, angle, perspective, approach, line, policy.


And, of course, there is simply:

Denial is a horrible thing.


How about response?

Going beyond the remit of your question, I suggest:

Denialism is an ugly response.

I used denialism rather than denial because I think it better fits what you are trying to express. Wikipedia defines denialism as choosing to deny reality as a way to avoid an uncomfortable truth. And ugly implies that it reflects poorly on the denier which, again, more closely matches what I think you are trying to say.


A hypernym for denial in this case would be apology in its most formal sense.

I think you would be correct in saying, "Denial is a horrible apology for ..."

Those "in denial" of something in this sense are often called apologists, but apology is broader than denial.


"Indulgence" or if you are willing to use two words, it is more vivid and judgemental sounding to call it a "self indulgence". Finally, I also like to think of denial of, say, a historical event, as a "deficiency". Denial is a horrible deficiency in an educated person.

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