Is there a short word in English for some small device or part, which the speaker has no idea what it is really called?

I mean something more sophisticated and humorous word or phrase that saying 'that something'.

  • How about How do you call it? or What is it called like? – juergen d Jan 25 '13 at 17:25
  • If you are speaking with a programmer, they might be likely to use a metasyntactic variable. "Let's say you have some kind of thing in your left hand. Call it a foo. And in your right hand you have a bar." More commonly they use it to describe things within a computer program, but it can be used to refer to "real world" objects. (This is The Matrix anyway, after all!) – HostileFork says dont trust SE Sep 29 '14 at 11:00

I like thingamajig, thingamabob or whatchamacallit.

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    Also whooseywhatsit (or just whatsit), gizmo, widget, ... there are so many. – Ken Bellows Jan 25 '13 at 17:47
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    @KenB: In general, I've heard widget used when the exact nature of the product doesn't matter, not unlike x in an algebra problem (for example, in an economics or business word problem: "Suppose a company sells 100 widgets per week..."). When referring to an object with a real name, however, and the speaker is unable to recall that name, that's when I hear terms like whooseywhatsit, thingymabob, and doohickey. It's a subtle distinction, I know, but perhaps worth mentioning. – J.R. Jan 25 '13 at 21:31
  • Ooh, doohickey. Good one. – Ken Bellows Jan 25 '13 at 23:30
  • Another fun one is "wossname". I've only really encountered it while reading Discworld, but I really like the sound of it. – snailplane Feb 20 '13 at 12:32
  • Just for clarity for non-native speakers, 'wossname' is an elided version of 'what's its name' and in BrEng I'd guess some more or less elided version of that is more common than 'whatchamacallit'. – peterG Oct 12 '14 at 13:54

One word to use is whatchamacallit. See e.g. the Wikipedia entry or the Wiktionary entry.

I've never seen it in written text, but I've heard people use it and used it myself.

Example sentence: Can you pass me the whatchamacallit?, I've lost my whatchamacallit, etc.

Compare Dutch dinges, French truc.

  • I have never heard of it. Where do you use it? Which part of the world? – Mohit Jan 25 '13 at 17:31
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    America, at least. – Ken Bellows Jan 25 '13 at 17:46
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    @Mohit: It's listed on Wikipedia, as a... whatchamacallit - oh, yes, a placeholder name. It's also the name of a candy bar. – J.R. Jan 25 '13 at 17:58

The most general word for "thing I don't know the name for" is "thing". There are lots of informal variations on it - "thingy", "thingamajig", "thingamabob", etc., and lots of semi-nonsensical words like "doohicky", "whatchamacallit" (a corruption of "what do you call it"), etc.

The potential problem with all of these is it kind of rubs it in your audience's face that you don't know what it's called. "Hand me that... thing." It comes off weak and uninformed.

Three safer options are "bit" (slightly informal), "part" (most general, formal), and "component".

(For that matter, you could even use "one". "Hand me that one.")

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