Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I thought there was a word for this. Where you take a basic problem that exists and the best solution already exists and any effort we put into solving the problem would actually cause more work for us thus becoming a bigger problem.

share|improve this question
This question doesn't really match the title. –  T.E.D. Oct 11 '11 at 22:24
Related: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked_problem "because of complex interdependencies, the effort to solve one aspect of a wicked problem may reveal or create other problems." –  StuperUser Oct 12 '11 at 11:16
'cobra effect' check it out on wikipedia –  user89962 Sep 1 '14 at 8:23

7 Answers 7

up vote 16 down vote accepted

The phrase I use is "the cure is worse than the disease". I can't think of a single word that is in general use for that.

share|improve this answer

It's not a single word, but I believe the phrase you are looking for is:

reinventing the wheel

One definition can be found in this online dictionary, and there is a Wikipedia article on the phrase as well.

share|improve this answer
Reinventing the wheel has no connotations of "the solution to the problem is more complicated than the problem" (it just means doing something that's already been done). But then again that's the question's title and not the body, so it's not clear what the OP is asking and it's a mystery so many people have answered. :-) –  ShreevatsaR Oct 12 '11 at 7:12
@ShreevatsaR Very true. I've tried to edit the title/question to be more concise, but I couldn't come up with anything that I was sure accurately represented what the OP wanted to ask, and I wanted to avoid rewriting it to basically ask for my answer. –  Jim Oct 12 '11 at 13:10

You could describe the situation as "(potentially) Goldbergian".

Rube Goldberg (noun)
1. having a fantastically complicated, improvised appearance: a Rube Goldberg arrangement of flasks and test tubes.
2. deviously complex and impractical: a Rube Goldberg scheme for reducing taxes.

share|improve this answer

Building a better mousetrap

The mousetraps we have are cheap, effective, and very simple, yet people are always trying to invent a new one.

share|improve this answer

I've only heard people use "This adds an unnecessary level of complexity" which is what I think you're getting at, but I've never seen a single word for this.

share|improve this answer

Consider using 'compound' (in the sense of 'to increase').

For example:

That approach would only compound our difficulties!

share|improve this answer

Maybe related: boondoggle, make-work.

share|improve this answer
This is really a comment, not an answer to the question. Please use "add comment" to leave feedback for the author. –  tchrist Aug 18 '12 at 5:09

protected by RegDwigнt Sep 1 '14 at 12:38

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.