Definition of ineffable
ineffabilityplay \(ˌ)i-ˌne-fə-ˈbi-lə-tē\ noun
ineffablenessplay \(ˌ)i-ˈne-fə-bəl-nəs\ noun
ineffablyplay \(ˌ)i-ˈne-fə-blē\ adverb
ineffable was our Word of the Day on 12/04/2008. Hear the podcast!
Examples of ineffable in a Sentence
an ineffable beauty descends upon the canyon as the sun begins to set
Did You Know?
Every tone was a testimony against slavery, and a prayer to God for deliverance from chains. The hearing of those wild notes always depressed my spirit, and filled me with ineffable sadness, wrote Frederick Douglass in his autobiography. Reading Douglass's words, it's easy to see that ineffable means "indescribable" or "unspeakable." And when we break down the word to its Latin roots, it's easy to see how those meanings came about. "Ineffable" comes from "ineffabilis," which joins the prefix in-, meaning "not," with the adjective effabilis, meaning "capable of being expressed." "Effabilis" comes from "effari" ("to speak out"), which in turn comes from ex- and fari ("to speak").
Origin and Etymology of ineffable
Middle English, from Latin ineffabilis, from in- + effabilis capable of being expressed, from effari to speak out, from ex- + fari to speak — more at ban
First Known Use: 14th century
INEFFABLE Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of ineffable for English Language Learners
: too great, powerful, beautiful, etc., to be described or expressed
Seen and Heard
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