I am writing a user-interface for a program that configures some things. Let’s call them entries. To help the user keep track of what is left of configuration, a section such as the following is somewhere inside the UI:

Unconfigured entries:

  • This
  • That

Now, unconfigured is not recognized by the spell checker. Oxford dictionary doesn’t have this word. and Wiktionary says of it:

unconfigure: To remove or undo a configuration.

Well, I wouldn’t be referring to entries that have been un-configured, but, rather to those that have not yet been configured.

What term should I use instead of unconfigured? I insist on having the word configure in the phrase for the user to be able to link the unconfigured entries with the configure operation easily.

Because this is a computer program context (rather than a piece of expositional writing, for example), similarity of terms is preferred over absolute correctness.

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    The universally understood, delightfully self-explanatory English term for something that is not configured is "not configured". Works in every context and register. – RegDwigнt Dec 13 '12 at 13:19
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    Isn't "Not Configured Entries:" as the title of a list a bit strange? "Entries Not Yet Configured:" could be a better replacement, but I would wait to see if there is a shorter answer. – Shahbaz Dec 13 '12 at 13:23
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    If your title needs "Entries", then "Entries not configured" or "not yet configured" might work. But I don't see what's wrong with "unconfigured" even if spiel-chuckers don't like it. – Andrew Leach Dec 13 '12 at 13:23
  • @AndrewLeach, well I don't care for the spell-checkers. I'm afraid maybe "Unconfigured Entries:" would imply that these entries used to be configured, but now they are unconfigured! – Shahbaz Dec 13 '12 at 13:24
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    Why should that matter? If they are no longer configured they are in the same state as those which have never been configured. – Andrew Leach Dec 13 '12 at 13:32

I don't find "unconfigured" in the couple of dictionaries I checked. I think most English-speakers would understand the word to mean "not configured" in the sense of "not presently configured", including both things that never were configured and those that were configured and the configuration has since been reversed.

Think of other "un" words by analogy. If I say that I am going to "undo" a task, I mean that I am going to reverse the process of doing it. Like, "Al assembled the motor, but then Bob had to undo his work when he found that one of the parts was defective." But if I say that a task is "undone", I could mean either that it was done and then the doing of it was reversed, or that it was never done. Indeed if I just said, "Here are a list of jobs that are undone", we would generally assume they were never done, not they they were done and then undone.

Logically, in most case "un-X" as a verb has to mean the reversal of the process of X, because if X was never done, how would you un-X it? Why would you need to? But "un-X-ed" as an adjective can mean either that it was X-ed and then un-X-ed, or that it was never X-ed in the first place, because now both possibilities are meaningful.

To "box an order" means to put the stuff in a box, presumably for shipping. To "unbox an order" is to take the stuff out of the box. An "unboxed order" normally means one where the stuff has never been put in a box. We'd probably consider an order where the stuff was put in the box and then taken out as "unboxed", but we wouldn't limit it to that. And there's no way to "unbox an order" that has never been boxed.

An "unsaid words" are not words that have been said and then somehow taken back. An "untried plan" is not a plan that was tried and then the trying cancelled. Etc.

Which is all a long way of saying, "I would say 'unconfigured'." You can't derive the definition of the adjective from the verb in the way you're trying to do that.

  • You are absolutely right! Thanks for the clarifications. – Shahbaz Dec 13 '12 at 15:20
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    Uneaten food and unplucked chickens come to mind. – tchrist Dec 13 '12 at 19:52
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    @tchrist I guess if you throw up, that's "uneaten food". :-) – Jay Mar 4 '15 at 14:32

I get your dilemma. I use Pending Configuration and Configuration Pending as the title, depending upon context.

  • I don't know who gave you a -1, but this is actually right on target! – Shahbaz Dec 13 '12 at 14:01
  • Thx! This is something I had spent giving a lot of thought when I first started reporting to my client. – Sayan Dec 14 '12 at 4:36
  • @KeyBrdBasher, the downvotes you got may be because of the short answer without citations/references; you should have realized this already given your 1K+ reputation. This is my preferred answer otherwise. – alwayslearning Oct 3 '16 at 9:47
  • @alwayslearning Thanks for pointing that out quite aptly! I was aiming for brevity here but on second thought, will probably flesh this out a little more. – Sayan Oct 3 '16 at 14:04

The QT Creator application has the "Unconfigured Settings" tab. So you can call these entries "unconfigured" as you intended before.

Second try would be: "awaiting configuration".

Another possibility would be to call them "configured by default", because it will be much better if these settings will have some default values instead. (I think it is basically a reasonable approach to supply some default values for all settings so your application will work "out of the box").

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    Actually "configured by default" sounds like the exact opposite of what the OP is looking for. Something that is "left out of configuration" is not configured by default; it is not configured at all. – RegDwigнt Dec 13 '12 at 13:22
  • @ezpresso, surely, they would be given a default configuration. I wanted to convey a sense of "don't forget this" to the user, which "configured by default" doesn't give. With your phrase, it would be more like "configure, or not, who cares". However, knowing QT has been using this phrase and there hasn't (apparently) been any misunderstanding it, I guess I could go with unconfigured. – Shahbaz Dec 13 '12 at 14:05
  • @Shahbaz, I feel like unconfigured is a good choice! At least it sounds obvious and, well, unambiguous :) – ezpresso Dec 13 '12 at 14:49
  • @RegDwighт, "configured by default" sound to me like "no one configured these settings yet". – ezpresso Dec 13 '12 at 14:53

What will happen if the configuration of an entry is rolled-back (canceled the configuration) at least hypothetically? It awaits configuring afresh, but it is in state where it actually lost its settings -- un-configured -- right?

That way, unconfigured is not entirely correct to mean not-yet-configured/ never-been-configured/ waiting-to-be-configured, as in the context.

For the correct denotation, it may be required to use a phrasal term like to-configure:

To-Configure Entries:
- One
- Two

  • Or "Entries to be Configured:". This is also ok. This is looking at things from a different direction (instead of telling their states, tells what needs to be done). I would keep this in mind if I come across a similar situation in the future, thanks :) – Shahbaz Dec 13 '12 at 15:37

How about: "Remaining Items to Configure"?

  • This is also good. Kind of long, but definitely correct. Someone seems to have misunderstood my question and is downvoting all the correct answers! – Shahbaz Dec 13 '12 at 14:03

Your premise, that for something to “be a word” in English, it must have an entry in one or another dictionary, is inherently faulty. For one thing, no dictionary ever contains all English words, not even the OED.

But for another, no dictionary ever contains all possible English words. For regular inflections, for example, like making a noun plural or a verb singular, or inflecting a verb by tense, you never see such things listed unless they are formed irregularly. That means that you don’t have a completely separate entry for flibbertigibbets or bamboozled, for example.

This same principle extends beyond inflectional morphology into derivational morphology. Like many languages, English has productive affixes. These are little bits that you can stick on one or another end of a word to create a brand new word.

Some of the very most productive affixes in English include the prefixes non‑ and un‑ and the suffixes ‑able, ‑er, ‑ish, ‑less, ‑ly, and ‑ness. For the most part, you can freely apply those to any word in the right target class to create a brand new word. If and when this word should become popular, it may be listed in some standard dictionary. But it is still a word even before that.

So if you cannot tell whether or not something is a word by say, looking in the OED, just think how much less you should trust any automated “spellchecker” to tell you whether you should use a word. It cannot possibly do that, although it may flag some terms for manual inspection. (It will also fail to flag many inappropriate words.)

In this case, unconfigured is a perfectly “real” English word, one that was produced by applying two different derivational affixes to an existing word. Whether its meaning is clear is open to some debate; for example, has it been de-configured, or has it never been configured at all?

But it is without question a valid English word, no matter what some idiot program “thinks” of it.


I don’t know whether something that has been de-configured should be treated the same way as something that has never been configured at all. It depends what each of those means in your application, and I can easily imagine scenarios where those would be completely identical. So in fact, we do not know enough to answer the question — which may even be unanswerable or off-topic.

However, if it were me doing the programming, I might consider changing the lingo to use two different configuration states: default and custom. That way if you unconfigure something with a custom configuration, you can return it to its default state, and if you change something from its default state, it flips into the customized configuration state.

  • I think you focused on the wrong part of my question. The question was to figure out a word with a clear meaning, since unconfigured could either mean deconfigured or not yet configured. Nevertheless, thanks for the effort. – Shahbaz Dec 13 '12 at 13:59
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    @Shahbaz tchrist has a point though. You were looking for a real, proper, English word, weren't you? Otherwise you could just have made something up, without worrying how official it was. – Mr Lister Dec 13 '12 at 14:06
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    @MrLister, yes I was. I did make something up: "unconfigured". But after looking at the definition of unconfigure, I doubted if that is a good choice. As a non-native speaker, I try to be cautious with the words I choose in a software that would end up being used by the native speakers. – Shahbaz Dec 13 '12 at 14:10
  • @Shahbaz I suggest you use default vs custom for the configuration state. Now you lose the ambiguity. See my updated answer. – tchrist Dec 13 '12 at 14:43

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