The Meaning of Inconceivable: What It Is and How To Use It

Have you ever wondered what the word inconceivable means? This guide will provide you with all of the knowledge you need on the word inconceivable, including its definition, origin, sentence examples, synonyms, antonyms and more!

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What does the word inconceivable mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary and other dictionary apps, the word inconceivable, pronounced /ˌɪn kənˈsi və bəl / means unbelievable or impossible to comprehend. This word is often used to describe something unfathomable or difficult to believe. 

You might have heard this word in the film The Princess Bride; Business Insider states that Vizzini shouting ”inconceivable!” is one of the most popular quotes from the movie. According to IMDb, The Princess Bride was released in 1987. Wallace Shawn plays the character Vizzini, who utters the famous line. The Princess Bride is about a farm boy-turned-pirate who battles many obstacles and enemies to be reunited with his true love.

The word inconceivable is also present in many other languages. The below translations of the word inconceivable into other languages is from Word Sense

  • Greek: ακατανόητος‎
  • Finnish: käsittämätön‎, uskomaton‎
  • Catalan: inconcebible‎
  • Asturian: inconcebible‎
  • French: inconcevable‎
  • Galician: inconcibible‎, inconcibíbel‎
  • Spanish: inconcebible‎
  • Russian: непостижимый‎
  • Portuguese: inconcebível‎
  • Czech: nepředstavitelný‎ (masc.)
  • Georgian: წარმოუდგენელი‎, დაუჯერებელი‎
  • Bokmål: utenkelig‎
  • Mandarin: 不可思議‎, 不可思议‎ (bùkěsīyì), 難以置信‎, 难以置信‎(nányǐzhìxìn)
  • Swedish: ofattbar‎, obegriplig‎
  • Dutch: onvoorstelbaar‎, ongelovelijk‎
  • Romanian: de neconceput, de neînțeles, de nepriceput‎, neconceptibil‎ (masc.), neverosimil‎ (masc.)
  • Tibetan: བསམ་ཡས‎
  • Nynorsk: utenkeleg‎, utenkjeleg‎
  • Italian: inconcepibile‎
  • German: unfassbar‎, unfasslich‎, unbegreiflich‎, unglaublich‎, nicht wahrnehmbar‎
  • Polish: niepojęty‎ (masc.), niewyobrażalny‎ (masc.)

What is the etymology of the word inconceivable?

According to Etymonline, the word inconceivable has been used since the 1630s. This compound word is formed from the prefix in- and the word conceivable. These roots also form the words inconceivability, inconceivably, and inconceivableness. 

Etymonline states that the prefix in- means not, opposite of, or without. This can also be formed in other prefixes such as im-, il- and ir-. This is from the Latin prefix in-, meaning not, and is a cognate with the Greek prefix an- and the Old English un-, which noth also mean “not.” In Old French and Middle French, this prefix is often spelled as en-, but many of these spellings did not survive in modern English, or if they did, are not longer considered negative. In- is usually used for words with Latin elements, whereas un- is used with native words. 

The word conceivable, per Etymonline, was formed in the mid-15th century to mean capable of being thought or supposed. This came from the word conceive, which rose to popularity in the late 13th century. Etymonline states that the word conceive comes from the word conceiven, meaning to become pregnant. This comes from the Old French conceveir, or Modern French concevoir. These words come from the Latin word concipere which is the past participle form of the verb conceptus, which means to become pregnant. These roots also bore the Spanish concebir, Portuguese concebre, an Italian concepere. These roots came from the prefix con- and the root word capere, meaning to take. 

The usage of the word conceive meaning to take into the mind has been used since the mid-14th century. This figurative sense plays on the fact that the mind becomes pregnant with a notion or idea. 

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word inconceivable?

There are many alternative words that one can use in place of the word inconceivable. These words are called synonyms. Synonyms are words and phrases that have the same meaning as a given word or phrase. Therefore, one might use these words if they want to avoid repeating themselves or if they want to expand their vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word inconceivable is provided by Thesaurus

  • mind-boggling
  • won’t fly
  • unimaginable
  • strange
  • unbelievable
  • beyond belief
  • implausible
  • insupposable
  • extraordinary
  • weak
  • unknowable
  • beyond reason
  • won’t wash
  • unlikely
  • reachy
  • unconvincing
  • incomprehensible
  • fantastic
  • impossible
  • incredible
  • phony
  • thin
  • unsubstantial
  • rare
  • staggering
  • unheard-of
  • unthinkable
  • incogitable
  • improbable

If someone wished to describe something that was the opposite of inconceivable, they could use what is called asn antonym. An antonym is a word or phrase that means the opposite of a given word or phrase. This list of antonyms is also provided by Thesaurus.

  • reliable
  • convincing
  • presumptive
  • satisfying
  • unquestionable
  • fiduciary
  • aboveboard
  • honest-to-god
  • creditable
  • straight
  • trusty
  • credible
  • rational
  • trustworthy
  • believable
  • credential
  • supposable
  • colorable
  • impressive
  • likely
  • authentic
  • tried
  • acceptable
  • probable
  • conceivable
  • reasonable
  • plausible
  • presumable
  • persuasive
  • up front
  • imaginable
  • tenable
  • possible

How can the word inconceivable be used in a sentence?

The word inconceivable can be used to describe anything that is unbelievable or incomprehensible. This word can be used as a reaction, or to describe something. Here, Sally and Sarah will use the word inconceivable to discuss the gossip they heard at school that day.

Sarah: I heard Dan asked Nicole to the dance. Isn’t that just like… inconceivable?

Sally: Totally! I mean, Dan dates Nicole’s best friend. That’s got to be against a code of honor or something.

Sarah: I heard she turned him down.

Sally: Good for her. I heard she turned him down and then later went and said yes behind Erica’s back.

Overall, the word inconceivable means unbelievable or difficult to comprehend. This word is an adjective that is used to describe things that are unfathomable or seemingly impossible. The most famous usage of this word is from the 1987 cult classic film The Princess Bride, uttered by actor Wallace Shawn as the character Vizzini.

Sources:

  1. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/believable
  2. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/inconceivable
  3. https://www.etymonline.com/word/inconceivable#:~:text=1630s%2C%20from%20in%2D%20(1,%2C%20opposite%20of%22%20%2B%20conceivable.
  4. https://www.etymonline.com/word/in-?ref=etymonline_crossreference#etymonline_v_6284
  5. https://www.etymonline.com/word/conceivable?ref=etymonline_crossreference
  6. https://www.etymonline.com/word/conceive?ref=etymonline_crossreference
  7. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inconceivable
  8. https://www.businessinsider.com/best-quotes-from-the-princess-bride-list-2017-9#5-you-keep-using-that-word-5
  9. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093779/?ref_=tt_ch https://www.wordsense.eu/inconceivable/