Ineffable

personal development Jun 16, 2021
picture of toddler staring in wonder to support a blog post about being ineffable

Ineffable is a delightfully delicious word. It comes directly from the Latin and has two distinct and contradictory meanings.

The primary definition of ineffable relates to that which cannot be adequately defined with mere words. This interpretation is often used in reference to the divine—for instance, the indescribable joys of heaven or ineffable beauty of nature.

The secondary definition of ineffable relates to that which should not be named. In other words, something that is too sacred to be defined. For instance, in the Abrahamic tradition, Jehovah is the “ineffable name” of the Supreme Being, which was not pronounced.

Interestingly, when trousers emerged in Europe in the 1590s, “ineffables” was a popular and jocular euphemism for naming them. Evidently, this was because they were too profane to mention by name.

Interesting, but what does this have to do with difference-making?

Well, first of all. Let’s toss aside the use of ineffable to describe the too holy or too profane. Let’s focus on the primary definition of ineffable as it applies to difference-making–a difference so profound and beautiful that it defies language.

What if you strove to make a difference like that? One that could not adequately be defined by a name or a tagline? What if the impact you sought was so magnificent that it was indescribable?

If you couldn’t satisfactorily speak about the difference only you can make, would you be living it and engaging in the real work required more thoughtfully, deliberately, and often?


Scott Perry, Difference-Maker Coach at Creative on Purpose.

If what you just read resonated, please share it with a friend.