English

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Etymology

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From Middle English unspekable, equivalent to un- +‎ speakable.

Pronunciation

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  • Audio (US):(file)

Adjective

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unspeakable (comparative more unspeakable, superlative most unspeakable)

  1. Incapable of being spoken or uttered
    Synonyms: unutterable, ineffable, inexpressible
  2. Impossible to speak about.
    • 1953, Samuel Beckett, Watt, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Grove Press, published 1959, →OCLC:
      It is true that during the first week hardly a day passed that Erskine did not address himself to Watt, on the subject of Watt's duties. But in the first week Watt's words had not yet begun to fail him, or Watt's world to become unspeakable.
  3. Unfit or not permitted to be spoken or described.
    • 1916 December 29, James Joyce, chapter III, in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, New York, N.Y.: B[enjamin] W. Huebsch, →OCLC, page 142:
      The miser will remember his hoard of gold, the robber his ill-gotten wealth, the angry and revengeful and merciless murderers their deeds of blood and violence in which they revelled, the impure and adulterous the unspeakable and filthy pleasures in which they delighted.
  4. Extremely bad or objectionable.
    an unspeakable fool
    an unspeakable play
    • 1926, H.P. Lovecraft, The Outsider:
      Yet to my horror I saw in its eaten-away and bone-revealing outlines a leering, abhorrent travesty on the human shape; and in its mouldy, disintegrating apparel an unspeakable quality that chilled me even more.
    • 2016 October 16, “Third Parties”, in Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, season 3, episode 26, John Oliver (actor), via HBO:
      Anyone who goes into a voting booth on November the 8th and comes out saying, “I feel a hundred percent great about what I just did in there!,” is either lying to themselves, or did something unspeakable in that booth! And that means, as uncomfortable as this is, everyone has to own the floors of whoever you vote for, whether they are a lying handsy narcissistic sociopath, a hawkish Wall Street-friendly embodiment of everything that some people can’t stand about politics, an ill-tempered mountain molester with a radical dangerous tax plan that even he can’t defend, or a conspiracy-pandering political neophyte with no clear understanding of how government operates and who once recorded this folk rap about the virtues of bicycling.
  5. (programming, not comparable) That cannot be referenced in source code, due to having no usable name.
    an instance of an unspeakable type
    • 2008, Trey Nash, Accelerated C# 2008, page 509:
      unspeakable field names

Synonyms

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Derived terms

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Translations

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Noun

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unspeakable (plural unspeakables)

  1. Something that cannot or must not be spoken about.
    • 2009, Dave Ulrich, ‎Norm Smallwood, ‎Kate Sweetman, The Leadership Code: Five Rules to Lead by (page 62)
      The longer we don't speak about the unspeakables, the more harm they do to the relationship.

References

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Scots

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Etymology

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un- +‎ speak +‎ -able

Adjective

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unspeakable (comparative mair unspeakable, superlative maist unspeakable)

  1. unspeakable