'unintelligible' vs 'incomprehensible'

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bonbon2023

Senior Member
Korean(south)
Which is the more formal and most unlikely to be used word between 'unintelligible' and 'incomprehensible'?
I post two sentences below from a dictionary I have.
1.Unintelligible legislation is the negation of the rule of law and of parliamentary democracy.
2.Some application forms can be incomprehensible to ordinary people.
 
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  • JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I personally use them as
    unintelligible = I couldn't make out the words - someone mumbling or with a strong accent trying to speak English)
    incomprehensible = I could make out the words but they (or the ideas expressed etc) didn't make sense.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I personally use them as
    unintelligible = I couldn't make out the words - someone mumbling or with a strong accent trying to speak English)
    incomprehensible = I could make out the words but they (or the ideas expressed etc) didn't make sense.
    I would say if you can read the words or hear the words but not understand what is being expressed then it is incomprehensible. But if you cannot understand the spoken or written words then it is unintelligible.

    I think we are basically saying the same thing though. I don't see the words as being exact synonyms.
     

    Drim

    New Member
    English-US
    The words can be synonymous, though I think in common usage, I tend to see them used differently, so it's hard to label one as more formal.

    Unintelligible most often seems to mean something that is hard or impossible to decipher, whether it's a garbled recording of a voice, or a poorly written letter.

    Incomprehensible more often seems to be used to describe a broader idea, that while possibly easy to describe, is simply too difficult to understand -- like saying, "it's incomprehensible how anyone could commit murder."

    Hope this helps.
     
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