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(pronounced in-ef-uh-bul)  adjective


1. incapable of being expressed or described in words (because it is so overwhelming or great); inexpressible or indescribable. 2. not to be uttered (because of its sacredness or veneration); taboo.

Main Example

  • Even though you and I have never been up in a rocket (unless you happen to be one of the 500-plus living astronauts), we can say confidently that the sight of Mother Earth from space will be beyond overwhelming, that it will be ineffable. No wonder that when the BBC asked Nadia Drake, author of National Geographic’s recent cover story “Through an Astronaut’s Eyes,” what struck her most about these space travelers’ descriptions, here’s what she said: “...Every person I spoke with really struggled to tell me exactly what it was like to see earth from space--they had a really difficult time putting it into words.”

Workplace Examples

  • Since we’ve been sharing so many confidences with each other this evening, let me tell you one more: As you know, I am very comfortable financially; I have a beautiful family; everyone is in perfect health; my children are well placed; and yet I do not feel perfectly content. There is something missing, an emptiness that is sort of ineffable, hard to describe.
  • Among all the crimes that have been reported in Houston in recent years, one that I’ll never forget is about a man who raped a young mother in the presence of her two little children, then shot her in the head and left with all the valuables in the home. Hours later, when police arrived, they found the two kids covered in their mother’s blood, trying to talk to her dead body. When I first read the news story, which was in the Houston Chronicle, I was filled with ineffable anger.

Other Examples

  • during a speech delivered just after the 2007-2008 financial crisis, this author saying: “I have ineffable contempt, ineffable disgust, at how our system of free markets has turned into an artificial and corrupt form of capitalism. In effect, it incentivizes top execs of financial institutions to take undue risk--because if they win, they each make tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars in salaries and bonuses, but if the risks don’t pan out, they still get to keep the bounty they’ve already collected, and the government is forced to step in and bail out the company at great cost to the taxpayers.”
  • in some cultures, the husband’s name being so ineffable within the family that his wife will not utter it even behind his back; God being referred to only as “Him” because his name is ineffable
  • the ineffable charm of some of the small towns you pass through while driving on U.S. Route 1 in Maine
  • an ineffably beautiful actress; an ineffably delicious dish; an ineffably cute puppy; an ineffably beautiful piece of music
  • the ineffable natural beauty of the Grand Canyon which often leaves first time visitors at a loss for words
  • the ineffable joy and pride felt by millions of African Americans when, on January 20, 2009, they saw one of their own take the oath of office in front of the U.S. Capitol, followed by a concert band playing “Hail to the Chief” and the firing of a 21-gun salute

© 2018 V.J. Singal
No part of this may be reproduced in any form without written permission of the author.

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