I read it on some books that were written: "Awkwardnessfull is Awkwardnessfull" in terms of what are the words that are homological. What's the meaning of this word?

The context is:

Another clever paradox deals with adjectives in English and is called the heterological paradox or Grelling’s paradox. Consider the word English. English is an English word. In contrast, French is not a French word (it is an English word). Let us look at some other adjectives and see how they relate to themselves: Adjectival is adjectival. Female is not female. Awkwardnessfull is awkwardnessfull. Unpronounceable is not unpronounceable.
The Outer Limits of Reason: What Science, Mathematics, and Logic Cannot Tell Us


2 Answers 2


It is an invented word to illustrate the idea of words that describe themselves. It is constructed along regular lines (or almost). Awkwardness itself, a word that is generally recognised and included in dictionaries, is constructed in such a regular way. The adjective is awkward, which I shan't bother to define - it being in every reasonable dictionary. Awkwardness is constructed in the same way as fullness, emptiness, sadness and so on, and is a noun representing the characteristic of being awkward. If something is awkward, it has awkwardness. So, if one is in an awkward situation, one might comment on the awkwardness of the situation.

Now, we can construct new adjectives from some nouns, nouns that represent something that things might be "full" of - so a situation full of mirth is mirthful, and something that is prone to changes is changeful. The same suffix is also used to indicate quantities, the quantity of something that will fit into something. So an armful is the quantity of something you can carry with an arm (or the quantity of something that is in one arm), and a bowlful is the quantity of something that will fit in a bowl. However, it is the "being full of something" that is being evoked by this word.

Thus, awkwardnessfull (which ought to be awkwardnessful to fit the pattern, but that's a small niggle1) is an adjective describing something that is full of awkwardness. To a fluent speaker of English, the intention is obvious, and it's not unusual for writers (or scientists) to make up words in this way, with suffixes, prefixes and so on.

In the end, *awkwardnessfull essentially means "very awkward", but you won't find it in many dictionaries. You have to work out what it means by recognising the suffix.

The author is trying to be clever, make a point by doing something strange. That's the whole point of it.

1: Actually, -full was an alternate version of the suffix in Middle English, so maybe it's being rustic rather than not-quite-right. Or maybe not.


"Awkwardnessfull" is not a word. "Awkward" is an adjective. "Awkwardness" is the noun formed from that adjective. When you add "ful" [not "full"] to a noun you get an adjective, so "awkwardnessful" would, by some reasoning, give you back an adjective again, which would have the same meaning (supposedly, I guess) as "awkward" did to begin with. But why would we use the new word when the original word "awkward" means the same thing? The whole idea is silly and, uh, maybe, "awkward"(?) itself.

This seems to be the author's whole point here, that you can make up sentences about words which use the words themselves. I'm not even sure that his sentence is exactly appropriate to his theme, since "awkwardnessfull" isn't really awkward, but more like silly or incorrect.

  • I like 'silly', and might add 'contrived'. Mar 16, 2019 at 21:37

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