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un- +‎ sayable


unsayable (comparative more unsayable, superlative most unsayable)

  1. (philosophy) Not capable of being said.
    • 1851, John Kitto, The Journal of sacred literature, Oxford University, page 296:
      Whatsoever has been said before me, even on any subject, surely it belongs thereto that it can be repeated by me in rehearsal, and hence it does not seem possible that in this sense it should be so fitly called unspeakable or unsayable.
    • 1938, G. E. Moore, Ethics, University of Chicago Press, page 215:
      Nonetheless, in some unsayable way, value sentences are about values and reflect the structure of values.
    • 2004, Daniel Fidel Ferrer, Philosophical Aphorisms: Critical Encounters with Heidegger and Nietzsche, page 97:
      The unsaid drives us to “speak;” but, in some ways, there are limitations on what we can say, because some part always remains unsaid — we must always attempt to say the unsayable.
  2. (rare) Not allowed or not fit to be said.
    • 1971 June 6, Walter Kerr, "Lenny Lost His Cool . . . (review of Lenny, about comedian Lenny Bruce)," New York Times, page D3:
      His task: to say the unsayable. To say all the words we have normally suppressed and to say them and say them and say them.
    • 1991 June 3, John Skow, "Can Lawns Be Justified?," Time:
      In Oakland, Rachel Blau's lawn is green because it rained recently. But if there's no rain, "we let it go," she says, bravely adding the unsayable "I don't care how it looks."
    • 2007 March 17, "Talking points: Racism and the cult of knee-jerk outrage," The Week, iss. 605, page 20:
      He was sacked, rather, for, saying the unsayable: for telling the truth.

Usage notesEdit

  • (rare: not allowed or not fit to be said): The term unsayable is rarely used in everyday speech. The more common equivalent is unspeakable.


Derived termsEdit


  • unsayable” in Unabridged,, LLC, 1995–present.
  • unsayable” in Microsoft's Encarta World English Dictionary, North American Edition (2007)
  • unsayable” in the Compact Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford University Press, 2007)
  • Oxford English Dictionary, second edition (1989)
  • Random House Webster's Unabridged Electronic Dictionary (1987-1996)