In an essay I want to enumerate and describe negative aspects of using a popular and working tool. Since such issues are usually overlooked (or even underestimated), I call them negative side effects. Now, I'm looking for a better (preferably single) word/phrase to describe those negative side effects, something other than drawback or disadvantage.

  • 2
    Why don't you want to use drawback or disadvantage (or presumably downside, which is the one I'd have chosen)? Understanding why those words don't quite work for you might help find the one which does.
    – Morton
    Jun 12, 2015 at 12:38
  • I want to put those negative side effects in a category besides other problems. For example, I have three categories for problems with the tool: Technical problems, Managerial problems and negative side effects. So, using disadvantages or drawbacks instead of negative side effects seem to be misleading.
    – Eilia
    Jun 12, 2015 at 12:47
  • 1
    Hmm - I'm afraid I still don't understand what separates these from the other categories of problem you mention. For example, how does a "negative side effect" differ from a "technical problem"? Perhaps an example would help (though I appreciate it might be difficult to give a simple enough example if there's a lot of prior knowledge involved).
    – Morton
    Jun 12, 2015 at 12:52
  • Eilia - everyone is telling you the same thing! Heh!
    – Fattie
    Jun 12, 2015 at 13:05

5 Answers 5


Any adverse and unwanted effect/: a bad effect or result of something : fallout

A phenomenon that follows and is caused by some previous phenomenon: upshot-

  • Do not confuse "Upshot" with "upside," which is exclusively positive.

  • Though the "up" metaphor may lead you to think of a positive connotation, the word is often used for negative effects.

  • 1
    +1 for fallout. But upshot is not the same thing as a side-effect. And it cannot be used in plural. You've been warned. Fallout is a mass noun, so it might be passable.
    – Tushar Raj
    Jun 12, 2015 at 13:25
  • @TusharRaj, you are confusing me. Why can't it be "upshots ". ( "But one of the upshots is that publishers have now firmly accepted the principle that ebooks should be cheaper than their physical counterparts").
    – justjoined
    Jun 12, 2015 at 13:39
  • 1
    Oxford Dictionaries says (I think) that it can only be used in the singular; other dictionaries don't. The plural does sound a little contrived though. The normal reason to use "upshot" is to signal that you're netting a complex situation down to a single conclusion - so acknowledging that there's more than one conclusion is slightly counter to the way the word's generally used in practice.
    – Morton
    Jun 12, 2015 at 14:07
  • 1
    A synonym for fallout in some situations is collateral damage.
    – stevesliva
    Jun 13, 2015 at 3:27

Disbenefits is a word I have used from time to time, though I was astonished to find that it doesn't appear in all dictionaries so may be office-speak, slang or new and is designated as 'British [English]' in the site linked in this answer


Noun: A disadvantage or loss resulting from something: ‘an environmental disbenefit to the area of Teesside’



If you think these side effects are tricky, or perhaps not particularly obvious from the outset, then colloquially you might say these are 'gotchas'.

Merriam-Webster defines 'gotcha' as, "an unexpected problem or usually unpleasant surprise".

For example:

Newcomers often use PHP due to the prevalence of tutorials, but the gotchas can make finishing more complex projects very difficult.


Try by-products

An unintended but inevitable secondary result:

he saw poverty as the by-product of colonial prosperity


Google search: weakness, imperfection, handicap, limitation, trouble, difficulty, problem, complication; hindrance, obstacle, impediment, obstruction, inconvenience, discouragement, deterrent, disadvantage, Any of these should work.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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