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[in-ef-uh-buh l] /ɪnˈɛf ə bəl/
incapable of being expressed or described in words; inexpressible:
ineffable joy.
not to be spoken because of its sacredness; unutterable:
the ineffable name of the deity.
Origin of ineffable
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English < Latin ineffābilis. See in-3, effable
Related forms
ineffability, ineffableness, noun
ineffably, adverb
2. unspeakable. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for ineffable
  • One way to get a grip on this seemingly ineffable property would be to build a conscious machine.
  • She is a supremely lucid and sublimely beguiling poet, as accessible as she is ineffable.
  • There may indeed be cases where all of the disvalues of suicide can be outweighed by ineffable pain and aloneness.
  • The ineffable sensation of freedom remains vivid decades later.
  • In that mystery lurks the world's ineffable potential for good.
  • Or perhaps there is something more ineffable at work.
  • The gift of being able to witness that transformation is ineffable.
  • The hearing of those wild notes always depressed my spirit, and filled me with ineffable sadness.
  • The training, learning and expertise you can get from the people who built, operated and used this machine is ineffable.
  • Many regard it as a metaphysical system of mindless rule-following, grounded on an ineffable moral command.
British Dictionary definitions for ineffable


too great or intense to be expressed in words; unutterable
too sacred to be uttered
indescribable; indefinable
Derived Forms
ineffability, ineffableness, noun
ineffably, adverb
Word Origin
C15: from Latin ineffābilis unutterable, from in-1 + effābilis, from effārī to utter, from fārī to speak
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for ineffable

late 14c., from Old French ineffable (14c.) or directly from Latin ineffabilis "unutterable," from in- "not, opposite of" (see in- (1)) + effabilis "speakable," from effari "utter," from ex- "out" (see ex-) + fari "speak" (see fame (n.)). Plural noun ineffables was, for a time, a jocular euphemism for "trousers" (1823). Related: Ineffably.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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