This is a quote commonly attributed to Albert Einstein,

"Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler."

However in searching for an actual attribution, I've found that there is some disagreement as to whether or not Einstein actually said this, something close to this which was then paraphrased, or nothing like this at all.

Did Einstein actually say this?

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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about attributing a quote, not about the English language or its common usage. Dec 10, 2013 at 14:59
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    @AvnerShahar-Kashtan: I disagree. The FAQ does not preclude questions asking if X said Y. There was a meta discussion in which it was determined that "Who said X" questions are off-topic because that is often unknowable and therefore impractical, but that's not what's being asked here. Dec 10, 2013 at 15:44
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    Looks relatively unknowable to me, after 30 mins searching. Dec 10, 2013 at 16:04
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    @JohnDibling Asking "Who wrote Great Expectations" is also practical and knowable. And just like this question, I don't see what it has to do with the English language and its usage, other than that English was used in its writing. Dec 10, 2013 at 17:29
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    @AvnerShahar-Kashtan: Asking about the origin of a phrase is really no different (far as I can tell) from asking about the origin of a single word -- which is specifically mentioned in the FAQ as being on-topic. Dec 10, 2013 at 20:03

1 Answer 1


Often used to describe Occam's razor, this is a quote which is commonly attributed to Einstein. There is an excellent web resource, Quote Investigator, which has explored this quote in great detail, and includes a number of references to where this phrase first appears in published literature. Their findings are:

In conclusion, Einstein may have crafted this aphorism, but there is no direct evidence in his writings. He did express a similar idea in a lecture but not concisely.

It is likely that it is a poetic paraphrase.


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