I am looking for a word to describe projects, work that is insignificant? I can't remember that. It has to be just a word that describes "work that is a waste of effort".


7 Answers 7


There's boondoggle and busywork.

  • Actually this is the word I am looking for. I saw this word somewhere in an article but I can't remember it. Here you go. You fix my curiosity!
    – Vennsoh
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 11:19

Fruitless or futile describe work that does not achieve useful results. Also, consider unavailing or in vain.

For endless work that can never be completed, there is Sisyphean.


If your audience appreciates the Classics, you might use Sisyphean, named after the legend of Sisyphus, who was forced to keep pushing a boulder up a hill only to see it roll down, again and again.


Opuscule - a small or petty work.

  • And you complain that my suggestions are obscure, or highfalutin!
    – David M
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 4:19
  • @DavidM - I speak French too... I get the obscure carryover words. You are just mad because I taught you a word and you want to upvote it but don't want to give me the satisfaction of knowing a more obscure word than you. It was actually the first word to pop in my head - our Paris office uses it a lot. Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 4:24
  • I know the word. I just don't see it used much.
    – David M
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 4:26
  • @DavidM - But its meaning is exactly what the author asked for. Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 4:29
  • I am just keeping you honest. Although, I've always heard this word with regard to an artistic work. A small opus.
    – David M
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 4:32

Worthless or pointless effort is sometimes described as nugatory.


unproductive and useless are other suitable words here.

So you could say something like:

All the work which I have done for the last few days has been unproductive / useless.


It's not a word. They are a phrase of two words - White elephant.

In its original meaning, White elephant would not convey the meaning that you want. However, in a modern industrial world the allegory is exactly the effect of what you seek.

Frequently, in industrial corporations, executives would design and sustain grandiose facilities due to the elegance of the design and functioning. They should have considered a less elegant solution, that would have been a fraction of the cost. What is worse, workers would find the grandiose system too complex, that they actually took pains to skirt around it, to use simpler and more effective ways to perform the same tasks.

Such a grandiose facility, project or system would be referred to as a White elephant by the workers. A futile endeavour, ineffective solution and an efficiency-crippling asset.

The same term is similarly used by citizens of places where their govts and authorities had constructed grandiose facilities and buildings, which ultimately had no use or functions, but to sit empty and purposely, while sucking up huge amounts of taxpayers' money to maintain it from falling into decrepit devaluation.

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