I tried communicationally, but the Free Dictionary doesn’t find it to be a word.

What I am trying to express is that someone is communicationally challenged, basically meaning they can’t communicate very well.

  • 4
    And what is wrong with "poor communicator?" Does the language need this sort of cruft? Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 16:00
  • @ncmathsadist: Cruft is a new one on me! I've just found out what it means, but I'm prompted to ask for more info Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 20:17
  • Don't be afraid to create neologisms using the standard rules of adding prefixes, suffixes, and infixes to standard words. As Barrie says, though, communicationally challenged is sardonic because all such PC-like terms are inherently parodistic and snarky. You've got to be a cynic to use them with effect and a turkey to believe that they mean what they seem to say (viz., I'm being kind and inoffensive here because I'm using a euphemism for inarticulate and, probably, stupid).
    – user21497
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 21:09
  • What is the adjectival form of "communication"?
    – augurar
    Commented Aug 9, 2014 at 4:43

4 Answers 4


Just because a term does not appear in this or that dictionary does not make it “not a word”. For one thing, the “Free Dictionary” falls short of being an accepted standard in the English language.

But for another, productive affixes like un- and -ly can be applied to virtually any word from the target class to produce a perfectly viable new word. So even if you were using a little dictionary that happened to be missing an headword for something like unceremoniously, no one would ever question it if you used it.

So with your particular case of

  • communicate > communication
  • communication > communicational
  • communicational > communicationally

you certainly you could do so. However, whether you should be creating such septasyllabic monsters is something else again; you might well want to use a longer phrase here instead.

You could just say they don’t communicate well, or that they’re poor communicators. All those, and many others, seem an improvement over the ponderous communicationally challenged.

  • 2
    [Adverb] + challenged is usually used with sardonic intent in a way that the alternatives aren’t. Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 16:19

The most recent citation for communicationally

adv. as regards communication; in respect of communications

…in my copy of the OED is in the context of communicationally challenged:

2004 Daily Tel. (Sydney) (Nexis) 14 June 19 : Mind you, if men weren't so communicationally challenged we women might not be driven to such drastic measures.

This is probably no coincidence, since it is a snug fit with the snowclone pattern:

[problem area]-ly challenged

Depending on the context, though, you may also have the choice of using the word communicatively:

adv. In a communicative manner; by means of communication; as regards communication

Notice that there is quite a bit of overlap in the definitions of the two words, and this form is 16 times more common than communicationally in the COCA. Ngrams shows a similar disparity:

Google Ngram of communicationally vs. communicatively

  • @jwpat7 hmm, I thought I set it up so clicking the picture would take you to the ngram page, is it not working? Edit: I added a link in the text just in case.
    – Cameron
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 20:25
  • The picture link looks ok – I didn't notice it before but now am unable to reproduce the problem :) Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 20:28

The Wiktionary has an entry for communicationally.

But if you want another word, incommunicable means "who does not communicate freely".

The post was tagged "adverbs", but "communicationally challenged" as a whole is an adjective, and "incommunicable" is an adjective.

  • I think Wiktionary is mistaken about "incommunicable". By analogy with similar words, "incommunicable" means "unable to be communicated", not "unable to communicate". Of course, you can use it however you want, but if you take that view I recommend using "fnord" instead, as it's shorter and equally correct by those standards.
    – augurar
    Commented Aug 9, 2014 at 4:48

There is an entry for communicationally in the Oxford English Dictionary with the definition 'as regards communication; in respect of communications.'

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