Missing words

Saturday 26 June 2010

It is said that English has about a quarter million words. So it surprises me when I can’t find a word I want.

For example, we have a bunch of words that mean, “tastes good”: delicious, scrumptious, delectable, appetizing, yummy, toothsome, and mouthwatering. So why is there no word that means just, “tastes bad”? We have disgusting, unpleasant, gross, and disagreeable, but none of those apply only to eating. Even the literal distasteful or unsavory are almost quaint when applied to food.

And if scary means “fills me with fear”, as do terrifying, frightening, horrifying, and hair-raising, where is the word that means “fills me with anxiety”? Unnerving or nerve-racking seem to be the closest I can find, but even those seem closer to fear than to anxiety.

Time for some new words?


In German, they usually just glue two words together and call it a day. Let's try "tastesgood" and see how far we get.
maybe as "tastes bad" has no real value in itself there is no word? Like Andrew said in German (I guess) we'd say "schmeckt nicht" ~= "does not taste", in german for a good taste you could simply say "schmeckt" ~= "tastes" which is a bit of a lonely word in english ;) but at the moment cannot think of a separate word for it apart from the ones you mentioned are available in English like disgusting etc.
I think you are protesting too much. "Delicious" does not exclusively mean "tastes good," although it typically means that when applied to food. "The dinner was delicious" is unambiguous. So is, "the irony was delicious." Ditto for "the dinner was yucky". There is no "tastes good" word that exclusively means "tastes good" and could never be used to describe something that stimulates another sense. I mean, the dictionary definition of mouth-watering doesn't even include taste! (And in any event, even when restricted to taste, in typical usage, mouth-watering means something that LOOKS appealing rather than something that IS appealing.)

I think that unsavory, disgusting, unappetizing, rancid, and the like are all useful "bads".

For anxiety, what about "worrisome"?
Just because there isn't a *single* word isn't that surprising. There are plenty of expressions/phrases to fill both of the scenarios you mentioned.
I've been searching for a word or short idiom that means "increasing coherence over increasing context" as a substitute for generally misused "truth."

Any help will be appreciated.
@Dennis: to my mind, "delicious" can be applied to other things, but is metaphoric if not about food.

I think "worrisome" and "unpalatable" are the best suggestions so far.
I hear you.

There's a word I'm missing: "Consider which decision to make." (Usually out of a set of decisions.) In Hebrew we have a word for this, but in English I don't know one.
Note: I actually meant "Considering which decision to make." (The way I phrased it before may make it sound like I mean the imperative "consider", while I don't.)
Probably depends on where you're from. Unsavory can be used here in the UK for food without seeming quaint.

For "fills me with anxiety" we have "Nailbiting" and for "tastes bad" - "fulsome" (cloying, too much), "foul", "rank" and "disgusting".

Readers of Roald Dahl may like to use some of the Big Friendly Giant's vernacular "foulsome, rotsome, sickable, disgusterous, maggotwise repulsant and filthing".
@Ian: thanks for reminding me of the BFG words, I especially like disgusterous.
Would "disquieting" fit the bill? It's funny though that the meaning seems slightly different as a verb than as an adjective. Why does "disquieting" suggest a milder feeling than "Her words disquieted him?"
Wait, “delectable” wasn't about boobs?
First things first Ned: English needs to invent or steal some yes/no words to use as answers to negative questions.
Hi Ned.

For anxious, what about trepidatious or trepidation?

HTH, Krys
Sniglets are words that don't appear in the dictionary, but should.
Rich Hall coined the term Sniglets and wrote a few books on them.


A few sniglets lists:

@Ram: "Considering which decision to make."

Easy: deciding

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