Our unconscious minds do not process words, which are far too cumbersome and limited. They process meaning, which originates with stimulation and then moves from Recognition to Evaluation, Reaction and Storage...and what we store are memories, knowledge, understanding, beliefs, values and reactions. But the only way we can accurately convey meaning to others is with words, but they only convey what the words mean, not the complete meaning intended by them...because the meaning of words are limited to not only their established definitions, they are also limited to the speaker's understanding of that word.

With enough time and effort, we can do an adequate job conveying meaning to others, but the more precise a word's meaning has, the more can be convey with a single word...and for people who don't want to take the time to talk or listen, those words help convey meaning much faster...and more accurately. The dictionary helps, but that assumes you know a word you can look up...but what if you don't have a clue? I'm hoping this is the place to go for help, but what happens if no one here can find a word or phrase that adequately describes a specific meaning? Do we:

  1. pick the closest word/phrase available and hope all of the other context will provide clarity
  2. create your own word until someone helps you find a better one

I'm doing a lot of writing these days, and most of what I write about is fairly original (for at least me)...so I often stumble onto things I can't find the words to accurately describe...and when I use words that are close, readers are often misled or argue over the words, instead of focusing on the intended meaning. This phenomena is not unique to me...it happens to everyone who wants to convey complex meanings but can't find the words to adequately convey them to others...so like me, they pick something close and generate a similar outcome...confusion and arguments about things they never intended in the first place....

I'm hoping this StackExchange is a better place to ask this question, since the English one keeps booting me over here....

  • Well, he's right about how the human mind works (that it doesn't run on words, but is only translated into words). Anyway, to help reduce ambiguity, you might try explaining the same thing in multiple different ways. Try using a lot of examples. Draw a picture if you can (one way to convey meaning without words). Try to anticipate possible points of confusion, point them out and clarify them.
    – causative
    Jan 29, 2021 at 23:48
  • What you are talking about is a "knowledge gap" or a "language gap". Use google, and hopefully with research you will stumble upon the terminology you are looking for. Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy is a great tool. I would also suggest researching philosophy of language to find solutions to your questions. .. It also sounds like you should be wary of word salad, and critically think about words you and other people use. Articulation is difficult, and the more you learn about articulation the more noticeable everyday miscommunication becomes.
    – Noah
    Jan 30, 2021 at 5:16
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    In some cases a longer descriptive expression might be preferable to a loaded single word, but if you need to coin your own term neither 1 nor 2 are adequate by themselves. You should do both and more. Pick a word whose meaning is suggestive and does not clash with already established terminology, make clear, explicitly, that you are altering its generic meaning into something more technical and specific to your use. Explain what that use is in general terms, and then give illustrative examples of what you have in mind. People sometimes have to write entire books to do this right.
    – Conifold
    Jan 30, 2021 at 9:55
  • @Conifold I agree...which has led me to write 33 books to explain the terms used in the one book I'm trying to write! Adding too much to the one book has caused it to exceed 3,000 pages, and I've got it down to just over 400 by footnoting the other books. My topic is 'better,' and though it was intended to be a 30-page booklet to bridge my understanding with that of my organizational development clients, it turns out I knew a lot more than I thought, and I've learned a lot more than that in the process.... Feb 13, 2021 at 13:43

2 Answers 2


This question is a huge one which caused major conflicts around the world throughout all history. As all comments already mentioned our human mind is not built on words but which produces numerous different images in their 3rd eye (mind) based on their own different experiences. Per my own philosophy, there's nothing but confusions among social conflicts and misunderstanding, similar situations hold during natural science theories progress...To structure your sentence as long and as precise as possible like forming a math statement in many cases are useful if your readers are well-educated.

But most importantly, from my own experience you should not too worried about words unless you're a lawyer in a court debate. Just focus on your main idea and logic you are trying to convey, oftentimes confusion comes when you want to convey too many ideas at a time. Try using some concrete stories or some colorful metaphors to support your abstract ideas or preferences, opinions, judgments...

In theory, once you're in a calm and know-what-you-are-talking about state, you won't have to worry too much to convey to others, it's spontaneous, because in this mental and physical state usually words are coming from heart like a spring, it won't get stucked just by a few words. Modern AI/GPT3 may have better and more beautiful comprehensive words than humans... Sometimes our expectation for ourselves are too high and pressured ourselves, under such stress, one cannot communicate well generally speaking...

  • Most of what I write about is several layers deep (word=definition=level), and if I skip a level, readers are bound to get lost, unless that word/concept is already adequately defined. So taking it slow and providing illustrations is helpful, but that makes everything I write too long for the average person to be willing to read. I started writing one book, that has become 34...33 books to explain terms in the one book I'm focused on. So, as I hope you can see, I prefer finding established words to writing books or adding too many pages no one is willing to read.... Feb 13, 2021 at 13:38
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    Sounds like u're learning while u're teaching... It's actually not an uncommon situation, I had similar ones before. In order not to be drowned in the Infinitism trap of epistemology, u have to assemble a certain "foundational" ideas for ur main thesis if u don't want to finish ur own learning journey first. Ideally, u only teach/communicate what u've already digested and clearly understood ideas/concepts/stories/dogmas... Feb 16, 2021 at 2:29
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    @Christopher thx for your comment! If u observe carefully everyone naturally understands everything based on one's own foundational knowledge which is proprietary and different for each one, and most of us can understand each other more or less but hardly ever exact and precise (and we're not interested in doing so without much incentives.). The real issue is for most of us (unlike scientists or philosophers) is these foundations are not made explicit, self-aware and logically consistent, so we'll easily get confused or lost with each other even with self. Your example seems based on physics.. Oct 22, 2021 at 21:29
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    @Christopher with the proliferation of internet, targeted search engine and online forums like this one, self-education becomes extremely easy and efficient in most cases than sitting in a classroom listening to a forced assigned teacher/professor... And yes according to private language argument, words/langs are only for use and can be and should be shared across a community (not all communities due to technicalities involved, but philosophical words should be able to shared by more since it's more general). Some philosopher once said naming things is the beginning of wisdom. So... Oct 25, 2021 at 21:14
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    @Christopher I'm glad I really helped you and certainly you're right now and being a nominalist doesn't conflict with realists since words are of uttermost importance for a nominalist (in name alone, nothing but names). As the maxim knowing how to name things is the beginning of real wisdom hints, learning and sharing words as an act and practice of the right way to naming things experienced perhaps is all there is for us to have any wisdom... Oct 27, 2021 at 5:46

Thanks to the comments and answers provided here, and the research they encouraged, here's what I've discovered so far to answer the question I originally asked...to help anyone else asking the same question. Please comment if you believe I have learned something incorrectly and I will correct it.

Onomasiology forms words to reflect meaning, as opposed to semasiology, which provides definitions to existing words. Lexicology is the broader category, but it includes semantics, which provides a systematic way to use words together. Focusing on the word alone and not it's use with other words, can be done in several ways, including synonymy, antonymy, hyponymy, and polysemy, but in all instances, you must start with a lemma (headword) and add it's lexemes (lexical categories, i.e. noun, verb, adj. ect.) with morphemes (the building blocks of words), which we call affixes. For example, sad is a lemma, but when you add the morpheme/suffix 'ly', it turns a stative verb (lexical category) into an adverb, or 'ness' turns it into a noun.

Synonymy helps when you can think of a similar word, and then study it's etymology (how the word was formed) to differentiate different roots/lemmas, and then go from there by adding established morphemes to see if that words has already been defined. Antonymy can do the same thing when opposites come to mind first, and if you are into categorical logic, hyponymy is the way to go (see wordnet below). But what frustrates me the most is polysemy, which attributes different meanings to the same word based on the context it is used--that is something my work discourages to avoid confusion...but that's a personal editorial comment to help distinguish the different methods, not a universal association.

Here are some tools I'm learning to use that might be helpful to you too: Best Resource: http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn Next Best: https://www.lexico.com Roots/Lemmas: https://www.learnthat.org/pages/view/roots.html#r Synonyms: https://www.powerthesaurus.org Affixes: https://www.myenglishteacher.eu/blog/prefixes-suffixes-list/ Etymology: https://www.etymonline.com/ All Around: https://www.wordhippo.com/

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