Which word is appropriate for the blank in this sentence and why?

Dreams are _________ in and of themselves, but, when combined with other data, they can tell us much about the dreamer.

A) disordered
B) inscrutable

The definition of disordered is given here:


adj not arranged in order

Synonym: unordered
Antonym: ordered

adj lacking orderly continuity

Synonyms: confused, disconnected, disjointed, garbled, illogical, scattered, unconnected incoherent

adj thrown into a state of disarray or confusion
“the small disordered room”

Synonyms: broken, confused, upset, disorganised, disorganized

Source: Definition of “disordered” on vocabulary.com

Per the last definition, “disordered” can mean thrown into a state of confusion. If that were the case, it is meaningless unless combined with other data. On the other hand, “inscrutable” is a very good fit. That’s why I was having a confusion regarding which of the words fit best here, as both of them could be reasonable to a certain degree.

  • 1
    I would say inscrutable, because of the juxtaposition with the second clause.
    – jimsug
    Aug 6, 2014 at 13:15
  • Yeah that would seem probable, but its not as if 'disordered' doesn't make any sense when put into the sentence, though it is true that inscrutable is a stronger candidate for this one!I couldn't weigh one over the other initially. Aug 6, 2014 at 21:03

1 Answer 1



Reason- Your sentence has two parts to it.

Dreams are ____ in and of themselves


when combined with other data, they can tell us much about the dreamer.

Notice how the two parts are linked with each other with "but". The first part of the sentence tells you about a specific trait of dreams, on it's own stand. The second part tells you- when you combine dreams with other data, you can get more(a lot of) information about the dreamer. Thus, for the first part of the sentence(for the blank), you're looking for a word that is the opposite of what is given in the second part of the sentence(hence the usage of the word 'but').

Since the second part of the sentence informs us that dreams when combined with other data are very informative, then what follows automatically is- dreams, on their own, are pretty much meaningless, or not informative, that is- inscrutable. Something that is inscrutable means that something is not readily interpreted or understood.

Look up the meaning of inscrutable here-

Inscrutable (adjective)

  1. incapable of being investigated, analyzed, or scrutinized; impenetrable.

  2. not easily understood; mysterious; unfathomable: an inscrutable smile.

  3. incapable of being seen through physically; physically impenetrable: the inscrutable depths of the ocean

Once again, before finalizing your answer, you do need to look at the other option you have. If you considered "Disordered", it gives you the impression that dreams, on their own, are merely disordered or misaligned(this may also imply that they do have the necessary information one might need to interpret them, you would only need to order/align the data). However, the next part of the sentence doesn't fit well with this, in terms of "other data" used only to "order" or "align" dreams.

For sentences like these, you would need to weigh both options against each other, and see for yourself which one makes the best sense.

Also, from my personal opinion, a good way of dealing with questions like these(and the one you posted before), is to familiarize yourself with the English vocabulary as much as possible.

  • so what you say is inscrutable sounds like a hardcore version of disordered. "which weights more, would be better". I agree with it as long as both answers fits in and one of them weights more in meaning but if there was "disordered" and some other non-relevant word given, choosing disordered would be acceptable too. Aug 6, 2014 at 12:01
  • 1
    Absolutely. These type of questions are fairly common on standardised tests, and the whole point of putting these questions there is to see whether one is able to compare and weigh all possible options against one another and then pick the best answer. Merely mugging up words from an english dictionary will only get you so far, but at the end of the day, you should be able to put everything you know to the test. Having taken quite a few of such standardized tests myself, back in the day, I must admit that its easier said than done, especially when they give 5 possible choices instead of just 2 Aug 6, 2014 at 12:13
  • The sentence would not be blatantly wrong with "disordered", but it would make considerably less sentence. When you have a "but" in there, you expect there to be two opposites. If I asked you to complete the sentence, "John is very tall, but Bob is very _____", the obvious choice would be "short". If someone suggested "happy" or "late", that would be very unlikely. It may be true that Bob is happy or late, but that doesn't complete the thought. (You could, I suppose, come up with some context where it would make sense if you tried hard enough.) So dreams may be disordered, but that thought ...
    – Jay
    Aug 6, 2014 at 17:03
  • ... doesn't really fit in the sentence. It's just barely reasonable enough that it would be possible. If the choices were "disordered" and "purple", I'd certainly go for disordered. But "inscrutable" makes perfect sense and so is clearly preferred.
    – Jay
    Aug 6, 2014 at 17:04

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