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I always thought the word "simpleness" didn't exist and this was even confirmed by some American friends of mine. However, I tried to look it up on some online dictionaries and I was surprised to find out that some of them report this word while others don't. What's the story behind "simpleness"?

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closed as general reference by MετάEd, Kristina Lopez, Hellion, Kris, choster May 22 '13 at 13:29

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

You don't want to use it instead of simplicity; that would sound uneducated or inarticulate. – Mitch May 21 '13 at 10:19
Simpleness is not quite the same thing as simplicity: Syn: artlessness, greenness, guilelessness, ingenuousness, innocence, naiveness, naivety (also naïvety) [chiefly British], naturalness, simplemindedness, simpleness, simplicity, unsophistication, unworldliness, viridity (; freedom from difficulty or hardship or effort ( – Kris May 21 '13 at 10:30
see "Is 'quantitate' a synonym for 'quantify' or just a misnomer?" for how to tell if something is a word. – Matt E. Эллен May 21 '13 at 12:55

1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Simpleness does not necessarily mean the same as simplicity.

For example, simple time in music is a time signature (basic rhythm) which is not compound time. Simple time has simpleness, not simplicity.

OED has a number of similar definitions:

simpleness noun

  1. Absence of pride, ostentation, or pretentiousness; plain or unassuming disposition or manners.
  2. Absence of duplicity or guile; innocence, integrity, guilelessness.
  3. a. Deficiency in knowledge or learning, ignorance; also, lack of mental acuteness, intellectual weakness, foolishness.
  4. a. Poor or lowly condition; also, lack of elegance or refinement; plainness of dress, etc.
  5. Absence of complexity; freedom from complications; simple character.
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Thank you for your answer. By saying that "does not necessarily mean the same" it's not clear if it could still be used as a synonim of "simplicity". Can you clarify? – Geeo May 21 '13 at 10:19
This is a simple sentence. It is a model of simplicity. All of the examples in my answer have simpleness as the "quality of being simple," not simplicity. Simpleness is more of a technical term, perhaps. – Andrew Leach May 21 '13 at 10:26
You can find some good examples of how simpleness is properly used in the BYU copus. There are 10 hits. I would suspect that most careful users would either restrict it to its technical meanings, as in music, or its suggestion that a person described as having the trait of simpleness is essentially simpleminded or intellectually challenged, to put it into PC-speak. Google Ngrams shows very few examples of simpleness: here are some examples. – user21497 May 21 '13 at 11:20
OTOH, probably 9 times out of 10 if you see "simpleness" the person meant "simplicity", but couldn't come up with that word for some reason (brain-fart, bad vocabulary, etc.). – T.E.D. May 21 '13 at 13:13
@T.E.D. yeah indeed, especially when Italians try to translate something to english :-) – Geeo May 21 '13 at 14:09

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