I am looking for a word that would describe being obsessed with the details of a larger entity such that the "looker" neglects to see the whole or (perhaps more importantly) the purpose of the whole.

Basically, "not seeing the big picture".

What can [more] succinctly describe this?

Edit: I just found this post: An adjective for "able to see the big picture". I think I want the exact opposite.

  • You want a single word for "can't see the wood for the trees?" Hmm...
    – user867
    Commented Dec 13, 2013 at 3:29
  • If there were a word, why would the idiom have been invented in the first place? Seriously. There's no such word.
    – Kris
    Commented Dec 13, 2013 at 6:52
  • 2
    @Kris It's also possible that there is a word, and you just don't know it. For example, you haven't provided an answer.
    – Josh
    Commented Dec 15, 2013 at 23:37
  • 1
    "A single word for “not seeing the big picture”" - Republican, lol. Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 1:54
  • narrow minded, comes to mind. (Ha ha to Daniel. :)]
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 18, 2022 at 15:06

10 Answers 10


How about myopic, which means short-sighted and therefore, both literally and figuratively not able to see the big picture?

  • That's about distance, not width, Ha!
    – Kris
    Commented Dec 13, 2013 at 6:51
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    @Kris Perhaps I did not phrase the question properly, and Brad's answer does not seem to be an adequate answer to some readers such as yourself, but this was exactly the word I was looking for.
    – Josh
    Commented Dec 15, 2013 at 23:35
  • @Kris, If a person is myopic, they are forced to focus at the up close. While focusing on a near object, one loses sight of those things in the periphery. This is the perfect answer for both literal and figurative short-sightedness. (Of course, "short-sighted" works too, especially if you are unsure if your audience will understand "myopic")
    – TecBrat
    Commented Jan 24, 2014 at 15:00

Shortsighted, tunnel-vision, hyper-focused, myopic, or unimaginative can all apply to this. As well as detail-oriented, anal, drudgeon, or dullard.


How about "blinkered" (when a horse if forced to only see what is in front of them).


What about omphalocentric, i.e. navel-gazing?

  • I like that. Not a word I'd ever use, but a good word to know :)
    – toryan
    Commented Dec 27, 2013 at 0:46


It depends on the context, but you could use it to refer to an approach that does not consider a holistic way.

Which means: characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.


parochial and its synonyms

Collins English Dictionary


Tunnel vision. That's when you get so focused on a single goal that you fail to see anything to your left or right. And that's all stuff that can easily derail your entire project.

  • Note: the person who asked the question is looking for a single-word answer. Tunnel vision captures the idea of "not seeing the big picture" but doesn't satisfy the asker's request
    – Kanga_Roo
    Commented Oct 23, 2018 at 17:54

It depends on the context but I think one who is incapable of "seeing the big picture or understanding the entirety of a situation may be considered Obtuse.

ob·tuse /əbˈt(y)o͞os,äbˈt(y)o͞os/Submit adjective adjective: obtuse 1. annoyingly insensitive or slow to understand. "he wondered if the doctor was being deliberately obtuse" synonyms: stupid, dull, slow-witted, slow, dull-witted, unintelligent, witless, half-baked, halfwitted, doltish, lumpish, blockish, imperceptive; More ant


You might say 'one-eyed', which is used similarly to 'myopic'.

lacking breadth of vision : narrow in outlook


not seeing the big picture is "gestalt challenged." :)

  • 1
    We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.
    – NVZ
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 14:16

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