I am digging through the old unanswered questions and periodically someone will be asking for a word that simply doesn't exist.

  • 11
    The problem is, people won't take "I don't know" for an answer.
    – Robusto
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 14:04
  • 2
    Not answer if there is no answer makes sense to me. Commented Dec 26, 2013 at 10:37

4 Answers 4


"There is no such word" is very much a valid answer to a single-word request. Not unlike how "no" is very much a valid answer to "is X grammatical in dialect Y?"

More to the point perhaps, "there is no such word" is a much better answer than "here's a random combo of letters I myself just sticked together". That is to say, we are not a site for coining neologisms.

And of course none of what I just said is a carte blanche for posting deliberately obscure single-word requests. The community is free to vote to close any and all questions that it deems to be over the top. Things like context, a sample sentence, the desired part of speech, and really just as many details as possible are never too much to ask for.

  • 10
    IMO it's also more useful to say "there is no such word in modern use" than to dust off some four-century-old hapax lurking in the OED, as we occasionally see.
    – choster
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 19:13
  • 4
    what is a single word for a site that coins neologisms?
    – Michael
    Commented Dec 23, 2013 at 16:22

Say "there is no such word." Maybe suggest some things that are close, but point out why they don't exactly work. And most importantly, upvote the answers which say that there is no such word. We can't compel the OP to accept these answers, but we can make sure they get upvoted by the community.

  • 5
    I see "I don't know" or "there is no such word" as knee-jerk answers sometimes when a user doesn't have personal knowledge of the answer. I think in those cases, they should simply not comment or respond and wait on other users to submit their responses. Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 23:46
  • 1
    I generally prefer to go with "there's no common single word for that". The "common" is important because there's always someone who manages to dig up some nearby term from the OED that nobody has used since the 16th Century. I don't think a "word" that your audience is vanishingly likely to know is of any use at all, but if you just say "There is no word..." then it can be argued that your answer is wrong.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Dec 23, 2013 at 22:08
  • 3
    @T.E.D. When you say "someone", you mean "tchrist", of course. But this is a good point. Commented Dec 24, 2013 at 13:23
  • These answers get downvoted, though.
    – user36720
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 23:31

In those cases, suggesting an alternative word or phrase that mostly fills the bill is better and more informative than just saying "I don't know" or "no such word exists". I don't know all English words, nor does anyone else on this site — but we, collectively, have an awesome vocabulary!

  • 1
    99% of the time this will just be the original phrase the OP is using, though. "What's a single word for a red door" "Well, I'd just use the phrase red door".
    – starwed
    Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 13:06
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    @starwed did you check the dictionaries to see if there is no such word? Coz you never know. Commented Jan 1, 2014 at 11:08

What you should do is answer with what you know, and someone with mastery of vocabulary can state faithfully that they are pretty sure there is no such word (if it is the case).

Of course, that is not often satisfying to people to state it so baldly. What is better is to elaborate, explaining possibly nearby words and their connotations (and how they are not sufficient for what is asked for), or if a neologism is offered how it sounds. Some suggestions may be rare, obsolete, technical, or dialectal which can be almost the same as 'does not exist'; that also calls for elaboration.

Then again, sometimes a request is just too specific: "Is there a word for how a dog's ear flops over when he turns his head trying to understand what you say?" (Oh please is there a word for that?). Sometimes there -are- words for such things, but then again sometimes there are not, so answer which way is the case.

  • Seriously, is there a word for what you mentioned above about that dog with a flopped over ear ...?
    – Gigili
    Commented Dec 24, 2013 at 9:28
  • 1
    @Gigili: quizzical ."The dog walked into the kitchen. The cat had somehow gotten itself into the garbage can with just its tail showing. The dog gave a quizzical look."
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 24, 2013 at 13:10
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    Takes notes ...
    – Gigili
    Commented Dec 24, 2013 at 13:19
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    But compare: "The bear walked into the kitchen. The pig had somehow gotten itself into the garbage can with just its tail showing. The bear gave a quizzical look."
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 24, 2013 at 13:21
  • Wow, that's quite amazing. Made me think of that scene with fish and shark instead of bear and pig. Would the shark give the fish a quizzical look? You'll find out in the next episode.
    – Gigili
    Commented Dec 24, 2013 at 13:30
  • It would not work with a shark. They don't have external flappy ears. Hm...neither do bears, but that's a different story.
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 24, 2013 at 14:30
  • There being over a million words in the lexis, and Churchill having been lauded as knowing just over half a million, what are the chances of finding a master of vocabulary? Commented Oct 14, 2017 at 10:32

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