European Placeholders

“Europe, this morning, I am thinking of you like a child who awakens.”

Charles Plisnier

Sometimes you just can’t cotton-pickin’ remember what something’s called. Sometimes it’s a lot of times. And sometimes you just don’t know the proper name of an object. What do you do in these moments? You use a placeholder of course! Europeans are particularly inventive in this respect and have plenty of amazing and sometimes suprising words. Would you guess who says “Oojamaflip” and “Thingamabob“? Which country replaces unknown names by “Duppeditt” and “Snurrepipperi“? Who the hell invented “Riistapuu“? Or what’s wrong with “Hogyhívják“? EuropeIsNotDead already investigated what are the filler sounds Europeans use to fill a silence during a speech. It’s now time to discover what they say when they don’t remember or know the name of an object…


Coiso – Cena

Portugueses sometimes behave as Smurfs and replace all kind of words with the placeholder “coiso“. The word “cena” is also often used. In the popular culture, the verb “coisar” replaces any verb that does not occur to the speaker. “Coiso” is actually the masculine form of “coisa”, which means ‘thing’ without being a real word, and is used to name everything and nothing at the same time. So ‘thing’ has a thousand and one uses in Portuguese language. The word has been popularized by Gato Fedorento, a TV show presenter. It has been borrowed as a slang into Brazilian Portuguese, mainly among the youth.In Brazil, especially in the North, “coisas“ is actually synonymous of genitals


Chisme – Cacharro – Cosa – Trasto – Comosellama

In Spanish,“chisme” can be used for any object whose name is unknown or doesn’t come to mind, much like English ‘thingy’. A synonymous of “chismo” is “trasto” and means approximately the same. “Cacharro” is a device or part, so it would b similar to ‘gizmo’ or ‘doohickey’ and designates a tool in the kitchen or garage. “Cacharro” can also mean a piece of junk, like an old broken-down car. Not to be confused with the Spanish word for puppy, which is “cachorro”. Just as in English with the placeholder ‘Whatchamacallit’, Spaniards can also use the placeholder “Comosellama” to designate everything and nothing at the same time. Last, the pejorative term ”Bicho”, from Latin “bestius”, is used for an animal of unknown species – but pay attention, in Puerto Rico it also means ‘penis‘.


Truc – Machin – Bidule – Chose

You thought French connect everything with sexuality? It might be right actually! The most common French placeholder “truc” was originally used in slang French to designate what couldn’t be named: soliciting or prostituting. Louis Aragon (1897-1982) wrote in his Roman inachevé, the following verses: “Bridesmaid from Saarbrücken / Coming down to do the ‘truc’ / For a piece of chocolate.” “Truc” is also said to derive from the verb “truquer” which has the same meaning of the English verb ‘trick’. As to the word “bidule”, it is from military slang for something in disarray. It probably comes from a dialectal word meaning ‘mud’. “Machin” is derived from ‘machine‘ and “chose” simply means ‘thing’. Some of these may be combined in several variations, with “truc” possibly being appended with the meaningless – muche: “machin-chose“, “bidule-truc-muche” are common combinations.



The Icelandic most common placeholder is the word “Hlutur“. It originates from Old Norse “hlutr“, from Proto-Germanic hlutiz, which would cognate with English ‘lot’. It’s the equivalent in meaning of ‘thingummy’, ‘doodad’ or ‘thingy’. As you may have guessed, it is not easy to find Icelandic placeholders. If you have other placeholders in Icelandic, please do not hesitate to share!

United Kingdom – Ireland

Gizmo – Thingamajig – Whatchamacallit – Whatsitsname – Thingamabob – Doohickey – Oojamaflip

“Hand me that whatchamacallit and a couple of those doohickeys so I can attach this thingamabob to the thingamajig down there!” English-speakers have so many placeholders used for objects whose actual name the speaker doesn’t know or can’t remember. All of them sound quite funny and have amazing etymology! “Whatchamacallit” is actually a shortened version of “what you may call it”. It is also a famous candy bar! So as the “thingamajig” which is an extended form of the word ‘thing’ which has first been used as far back as 1751! Another placeholder “thingamabob” inspired the 1942 song “The Thing-Ummy Bob” which celebrates the production line worker of World War II making components for complex weapons to win the war! The placeholder “Doohickey” was first attested in 1914, of uncertain origin, but probably made from ‘doodad’ and ‘hickey’. The same occurs with “oojamaflip” whose origins remain a mystery…


Dings – Dingseboms – Greie – Duppeditt – Snurrepipperi – Krimskrams

Why do Norwegian placeholders remind us so much of Mary Poppins’ songs? Whenever you can’t remember how to say some noun in Norwegian, just throw the words “dings”, “dingseboms” or “greie” and you’ll make your interlocutor happy! They all mean ‘thingy’, ‘gadget’ and can be really helpful. Norwegians also use the word “duppeditt” to depict a small and sometimes useless object. “Snurrepipperi” (almost always plural) are similar to “duppeditt“, usually something slight weird and fancy. Last, Norwegians also have a placeholder inspired by Germans, the word “Krimskrams” (almost always plural) to designate a random heap of small and cheap items. Mary Poppins, we said…


Sak – Grej – Pryl – Mojäng – Grunka – Grunkimojs – Grejs – Tjofräs

Swedish is maybe the most appropriate language for placeholders! The most common placeholders are “Sak”, “grej”, “pryl”, “mojäng/moj” (from French “moyen”) and “grunka”. They are neutral words for ‘thing’. Some plural nouns are “grejsimojs”, “grunkimojs”, “grejs”and “tjofräs”, which correspond to thingamabob, and the youth loan word ‘stuff’, which is pronounced with the Swedish ‘u’. “Apparat” (or, more slangy, mackapär) more specifically refers to a complex appliance of some kind, much like the German “Gerät”. More familiarly or when openly expressing low interest, people use “tjafs” or “trams” (drivel) and “skräp” or “krams” (rubbish). “Vadhannuhette” and “vaddetnuhette” correspond to ‘whatshisnameand ‘whatchamacallit‘ respectively, except that Swedes use the past tense. “Det där du vet” means ‘that thing you know’. “Gunk” may refer to any fairly large quantity of objects of indeterminate identity, much like the English ‘junk’.


Hilavitkutin – Mikälie – Juttu – Systeemi – Tilpehööri – Höhä – Sälä

Finns are inventive when it comes to create placeholder words “Hilavitkutin”, the most common Finnish placeholder word for technical objects and machinery actually refers to ‘a device related to a lattice’. An idiosyncratically Finnish placeholder word is “mikälie”or “mikä lie”, literally ‘whatever (it) may be’. It uses the Finnish verb form “lie”or “lienee”, meaning “(it) probably is”. “Juttu” has the literal meanings ‘story’, ‘criminal/court case’, or ‘issue’, but may refer to virtually anything inanimate. Other generic placeholder words in colloquial use include “systeemi” (‘system’), “homma” and “hommeli” (‘thing’, ‘thingy’). “Tilpehööri” derives phonetically from the Swedish language “tillbehör” (‘that which is included’), and can refer especially to very small items, often found in small plastic bags, needed to put together furniture (say from IKEA). “Tilpehööri” is always clearly useful and needed to something; unnecessary or obscure small items are called “höhä”or “sälä”.


Dims – Dingenot – Dimsedut – Huddelifut – Himstregims – Himstregimst – Tingest

Danes did not have to go far from their country to invent their placeholders. They just listened to their German neighbours who were continuously repeating the word “Dings” and thought: “this must mean something… Let’s just use the approximate translation in Danish of the word “dings“, which makes “Dims“, and name everything and nothing at the same time with it! If it worked for the Germans, it will work for us!”. But Danes did not just stop there at stealing their neighbours’ favorite placeholder: they just developed a whole range from it. That’s how “dingenot“, “dimsedut” and “dibbedut” came to life… Fortunately, they also thought about other placeholders, such as “huddelifut“, “himstregims“, “himstregimst“, “tingest“, “sager” (lit. ‘stuff’) and “grej” (lit. ‘gear’).


Dinges – Jeweetwel

Is Lord Voldemort — the villain in Harry Potter — actually Dutch? It may be the case, as Dutch people have this funny placeholder Jeweetwel”, which means litteraly ‘you know well’ and is, according to its definition “a way to describe a person, a phenomenon, or a property, without saying the name. This may be because the word it replaces explicitly mentions a cultural or otherwise objectionable taboo and can’t be called by its true name”. This is however not the primary Dutch placeholder, which is “dinges” (derived from the German “ding“, ‘thing’), used for both objects and persons, and sometimes turned into a verb (“dingesen“). The diminutive of “ding“, “dingetje” (‘little thing’) serves as a placeholder for objects when used with an article, and for persons without.


Dinges – Jeweetwel – Truc – Machin – Bidule – Chose – Dings – Dingsbums – Dingsda

Belgium is already a country with some linguistic specificities… Besides the three main languages of the country – Flemish, French and German – one can hear almost all languages in the European capital. So it’s maybe better for you to know few placeholders before arriving in Brussels: you may need them! If you meet a Flemish guy, ‘Dinges‘ and ‘Jeeweetwel‘ will make you understood. On the contrary, if you meet French-speakers, just throw a French ‘Truc‘ or ‘machine‘ in the conversation and it may save your day! There are less reasons to encounter German-speaking Belgians, but in any case, just remember the placeholder ‘Dings‘ and you are ready to face all situations in Belgium!

Germany – Austria – Switzerland

Dings – Dingsbums – Dingsda – Dingens – Kram – Krimskrams – Krempel

German also sports a variety of placeholders; some, as in English, contain the element “Dings”, “Dingens” (also “Dingenskirchen”), “Dingsda”, “Dingsbums”, cognate with English ‘thing’. Also, “Kram”, “Krimskrams”, “Krempel” suggest a random heap of small items, e.g. an unsorted draw ful of memorabilia or souvenirs. In a slightly higher register, “Gerät” represents a miscellaneous artifact, or, in casual German, may also refer to an item of remarkable size. “Zeug” usually refers to either a heap of random items that is a nuisance to the speaker, or an uncountable substance, often a drug. Finally, “Sache”, as a placeholder, loosely corresponding to Latin res, describes an event or a condition. A generic term used especially when the speaker cannot think of the exact name, also used in enumerations analogously to ‘et cetera’, is the colloquial “schlag-mich-tot” (literally “beat me dead”).


Roba – Coso – Affare – Aggeggio 

Let’s plunge innocently into stereotypes! You find yourself in an Italian bus and you are listening to a lengthy conversation. At some point, the speakers turn to you and engage discussion. As a non-native Italian speaker, you are afraid of not being able to follow the flow of words and fear you might not be able to answer properly… Then come as magic some really useful placeholders that will save your life! In Italian, standard placeholders for inanimate objects are “roba” (literally ‘stuff’), “coso” (related to “cosa”, ‘thing’), “affare” (literally ‘an item of business’) and “aggeggio” (‘device’ or ‘gadget’). If you want to sound vintage, you can even use “Vattelapesca” (‘go and catch it’): it was once very much used for rare or uncommon objects but is now quite obsolete. Good to know as well: the verb cosare is sometimes used as placeholder for any other verb.


Toto – Tentononc – Udělátko – Bazmek – Hejble

One way to keep your self-dignity and hide your ignorance of the Czech language is by using a placeholder. In Czech, there are several placeholder words for things such as “toto”, “tentononc”, “udělátko”, “bazmek”, “hejble”, etc. The Czech word “basmeg“, equivalent of ‘thingy’, is actually a loanword from Hungarian, where it means ‘f**k it!’ But it is not a vulgar word in Czech as many Czechs don’t know the original Hungarian meaning. It is also interesting to notice that the Czech placeholder “toto” is the same word as the French sassy brat in funny stories, often located at school, the equivalent of Little Johnny. Last and less original, both “udělátko” and “hejble”, mean ‘gadget’.


Oné – Tento – Konina – Kravina – Bazmek

‘Bullshit!’ Slovaks have numerous expressions meaning ‘bullshit’, that can be used as placeholder names for things – these can be either colloquial, derived from names of farm animals such as “konina”, “kravina”, “volovina”, “somarina” etc…, or obscene, derived from names for genitaliakokotina”, “chujovina”, “pičovina”. However, the most common Slovak placeholders are “oné” (originally an indefinite pronoun) or “tento” (originally a definite pronoun, close deixis) which can be used for both things and people. “Dzindzík” is used as a placeholder for (control) elements of various devices. It is often used interchangeably with “bazmek” (derived from Hungarian “baszd meg” meaning ‘fuck it’) which can also be used to refer to entire devices. “Hovno s makom” (‘shit with poppy seeds’) is a placeholder for food generally used after someone asks what food is going to be eaten.


To coś – Cudo – Dynks – Wihajster – Ten Teges

Achdiese Deutschen“! They influenced all Europe with their placeholder “Ding“. Poles from the region of Wielkopolska made up the placeholder “dynks” from it. It is also widely in use in the region of Silesia where it is spelled “dinks“. But Poles also have a funny placeholder “wihajster” which is inspired from the German “wie heißt er?” that is to say ‘what’s its name?’. Besides those placeholders, the most popular Polish placeholders are “to coś” (literally meaning ‘this something’), “cudo” (‘miracle’), and a general placeholder “ten teges” or, even more often “ten tego” (‘this’), which can also be used as a filled pause. There are also other terms, such as “elemelek“, “pipsztok” or “psztymulec“, but they are much less common. Also used are “dzyndzel” (equivalent to dynks) and “knefel” (similar to ‘frob’, unknown object that can be adjusted or manipulated). 


Dáiktas – Dalỹkas

Lithuanians revivify the long-lasting philosophical quarrel between concrete and abstract. For really concrete objects which they forgot the name, they use the placeholder “dáiktas which means something like ‘thingy’. On the contrary, for abstract ideas and concepts they can’t name, they use the placeholder “dalỹkas“. If you have other placeholders in Lithuanian, please share.


Manta – Lieta – Uzparikte

“Manta” is a classic Latvian placeholder for something you just can’t define with a better word, either because there is no good descriptor or you can’t remember the right word. Just as in Lithuanian, “manta” is mainly used for concrete objects. For more abstract concepts, Latvian will use the word “lieta“. “Uzparikte” is also a placeholder for a random device or a mechanical thing which you can’t define more clearly. Latvian can thus say: “Kas tā par uzparikti?” – what’s this? (meaning a device). If you have other placeholders in Latvian, please share.


Asjandus – Riistapuu – Mis-ta-n’d-oligi – See lugu – Jutt – Asi

It’s not easy to find Estonian placeholders, but there are certainly a lot of them. The most common placeholder may be “Asjandus” which means approximately ‘Thingamabob’. “See lugu” is also in use and means in English ‘That story’. Estonians also say “Jutt” whenever they can’t give a name to something. “Asi” would be the equivalent of the English ‘thingy’. “Mis-ta-n’d-oligi” would mean eventually something like ‘how shall I call it?’ If you have other placeholders in Estonian, please share.


штука (štuka) – штуковіна (štukovina) – штукенция (Shtukentsiya) – это самое (Eto samoje) – ботва (botva) – фигня (fihnia) – хреновина (Chrienovina) – бред (Bried)

There are some interesting placeholders in Belarus. The most common may be “Штучкі” (“Štučki” for ‘thing’), “штуковіна” (“štukovina” for ‘thingy’) or “штукенция” (“Shtukentsiya“). In Russian, among the common placeholder names are “это самое” (‘this particular [object]’), “ботва” (“botva” ‘leafy tops of root vegetables’), “фигня” (“fihnia” for ‘crud’) “хреновина” (same meaning as the previous one, but slightly less offensive, related to horseradish sauce), and “бред” (“brief” for ‘nonsense’, ‘lies’). A term for something awkward, bulky and useless is “бандура” (“bandura”, an old Ukrainian musical instrument, big and inconvenient to carry)…


я́к його́ (ják johó) – я́к її́  (ják jijí) – я́к їх  (ják jix)

Ukrainians do have some placeholders they use to designate things whenever they can’t remember their proper name. “я́к його́” (pronounced “ják johó”) is masculine and means roughly ‘whatchamacallit’. The feminine form is “я́к її́“ (pronounced “ják jijí”) and can be used for a thing nonspecific, unknown or forgotten. There is eventually the plural form “я́к їх” (pronounced “ják jix”). If you have other placeholders in Ukraininan or further explanations, please share.

Romania – Moldova

Chestie – Cutare – Cum-îi-zice – Nu-știu-ce – Cine știe ce – Un din-ăla – Drăcie

Are Romanians distant cousins of the Brits? They share indeed the same kind of placeholders! There are for instance the placeholders “cum-îi-zice” or “cum-se-cheamă” (‘what’s-it-called’) which would be the equivalent of ‘whatchamacallit’. There is also “nu-știu-ce” which means ‘I-don’t-know-what’, and “cine știe ce” for ‘who-knows-what’. One can also designate unknown things with the placeholder “un din-ăla” or “o-din-aka” meaning ‘one of those things’. The most common placeholders for objects would be however “chestie”. “Cutare” can be used for both persons and things. Last, “Drăcie” (‘devilish thing’) is a derogative placeholder name for objects (but the derogative nuance is not diabolical, it may simply suggest unfamiliarity or surprise). A more emphatic form posed as a question is “ce drăcia dracului?” (‘what the devil’s devilish [thing]?’).


Izé – Micsoda – Hogyhívják – Miafene – Bigyó – Miafasz – Készség

Hungarian sports a great number of placeholders. They have for instance “micsoda” (‘what-is-it’), “hogyhívják” or “hogyishívják” (‘what-it’s-called’), “miafene” (‘what-the-heck’), “bigyó” (‘thingie’), “miafasz” (‘what-the-fuck’, literally ‘what-the-dick’). The Hungarian langague has also this specificity of the wordizé”, a stem of ancient Uralic heritage, which enables derivational processes to fit virtually any grammatical category (“izé + noun, adjective, adverb, verb). It’s quite a usefull word to know, but pay attention, in slangizé” often take on sexual meanings.  Words with a similar meaning and use are “cucc”, usually translated as ‘stuff’. More complex objects such as electronic devices, and especially novelty items can be referred to with “készség”.


Stvar – Reč – Oné – Uno Tisto – Seveda

There are three main placeholders in Slovenian “stvar“, “reč” and “oné” which all mean approximately ‘thingy’. They can be used both for abstract and concrete things. “Oné” is used for unnamed thing and can be used pejoratively to designate (willingly) an unnamed person. It’s the same word as in Slovakia. It can be enhanced to “Uno tisto“, which means “that that” whereby “uno” (the formal version being “ono“) means “further away” and “tisto” – “[than] that”. There is also “Seveda” which is a stack of words from “se vé, da” and would be translated as “everyone knows/we know/it is known that…” And last, Slovenians also have the funnyJajca”, which literally means “testicles” and can be just anything: the more it irritates or annoys you the more “jajca” it is.

Croatia – Serbia – Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sokoćalo – Džidžabidže – Zvrčka – Stvarčica – Hepek

The serbo-croatian placeholder “sokoćalo” is used for mechanical devices of unknown purpose. On the contrary “džidžabidže” is used for small objects. Two other placeholders have the same meaning as the English word ‘Doohickey’: “Zvrčka” and “Stvarčica”. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Top lista nadrealista, which would be translated in English as ‘The Surrealists’ Top Chart’ was a sketch comedy and variety television show airing on TV Sarajevo in three separate installments from 1984 until 1991. During that time, comedians often used the word “hepek” as a placeholder to refer to any object or person. It became then the Bosnian most popular placeholder…


Gjësend – Vegël – Vegël pa emër

Yes, we can! We can find some Albanian placeholders! Maybe the most common one would be “gjësend” which literally translates as ‘whatnot’ and is equivalent to ‘doohickey’, ‘thingum’ or ‘thingumajig’.  ‘Another thing you want?’ or shall we say by using the placeholder in context “Doni gjësend tjetër?” Albanians also have the word “vegël” which roughly means ‘gadget’, ‘tool’ or ‘doohickey’. They can also use the synonymous “Vegël pa emër“.


такова (Takova) – таковата (Takovata) – джаджа (Džadža)

‘Such’ a pleasant placeholder… Bulgarian use the word ‘such’ to refer to any unkown object “такова” (“takova“) or ‘the such’ “таковата” (“takovata“). It can be used in place of a noun, and “таковам” (“takovam“) as a verb. The latter often can have obscene connotations, but it’s generally not considered profane. For an equivalent of ‘thingy’, Bulgarians prefer “джаджа”(“džadža“). If you have other placeholders in Bulgarian or further explanations, please share.

North Macedonia

џиџе (džidže) – џиџи-миџи (džidži-midži) – ваквото (vakvoto) – таквото (takvoto) – речи-го (reči-go)

In Macedonian “џиџе” (“džidže“) usually means a small object, and “џиџи-миџи” (“džidži-midži“) more than one. Other words used are: “ваквото” (“vakvoto“), “таквото” (“takvoto“), “онаквото (“onakvoto“) (‘the like this’, ‘the like that’), “речи-го” (“reči-go” meaning ‘say-it’), “ова-она” (“ova-ona” meaning ‘this and that’), and “ваму-таму” (“vamu-tamu” for ‘here and there’). Of course, all above mentioned placeholders are used unofficially.


μαραφέτι (Maraféti) – μαντζαφλάρι (Mantzaflári) – μηχάνημα (Michánima) – Αποτέτοιος (Apotetoios)

You understand Greek? Good for you! But do you master Greek enough to master its placeholders? In Greek, the most common placeholder for unknown object may be “μαραφέτι” (“maraféti“) which means something like ‘thingy’, ‘thingamajig’ or ‘thingamabob’ and also designates a clever or complicated mechanism. For an equivalent of ‘widget’, ‘doodah’ or ‘thingummy’ you shall better use “μαντζαφλάρι” (“mantzaflári“). ‘Gadget’ or ‘devices’ would be better (not) named with “μηχάνημα“ (“michánima“). The Greek placeholder “μπλιμπλίκι” (“bimplikia”) is used for rather complex objects. But take also into account that, unofficially, most placeholders are improvised, derived from pronouns, such as “Αποτέτοιος” (“apotetoios”) (‘thingummy’ or ‘whatsitsname’).


Şey – Uğur – Falan – Filanca – Falan filan – Ivır zıvır – O şey dedi – Zımbırtı – Zamazingo

Turkish has many colorful placeholders. “Falan” seems to be borrowed from Arabic, and comes in variations like “filanca” (‘what’s his name’) and “falan filan” (‘stuff, etc’). “Ivır zıvır” is a common placeholder for ‘various stuff’. In addition, meaningless words such as “zımbırtı” and “zamazingo” are used similarly to the English words ‘gadget’ and ‘gizmo’, but not necessarily related to technology. “Şey” meaning ‘thing’ is used colloquially for an object or an action the person has that second forgotten. “O şey dedi,…” (literally ‘He said ‘thing’,…’) can be used instead of ‘He said that…’. It can also be used as a euphemism in place of a verb. “Şey yapmak istemedim” (‘I didn’t want to ‘thing”) can mean ‘I didn’t want to make an issue out of it.’

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