I am looking for a word to describe something that is so massively complex and poorly organized, that it collapses under it's own weight. Due to a tight word count, I would prefer to use one word, but an appropriate short phrase would still work. Right now, I think I may resort to 'monolithic', but it feels too bland and I am looking for something more descriptive.

Thank you.

EDIT: While I have received and accepted an answer (which I am using), I would still appreciate suggestions. Thanks again!

  • 3
    "Monolithic" might or might not be bland, but it means big and strong (and often not particularly elegant); it does not carry the additional meaning of over-complex, or liable to collapse under its own weight. I can't think of a single word or short phrase to meet your needs.
    – Cargill
    Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 4:32
  • 2
    Titanic might capture the feeling of size and being disastrously underdeveloped at he same time.
    – Rob BB3
    Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 5:20
  • Intractable is another word for a massively complex problem. Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 13:09
  • 2
    Monolithic is like the Washington Monument. Monolithic is the opposite of what you want.
    – ab2
    Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 15:21
  • 1
    "Worse than the tax code."
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 18:44

10 Answers 10


Convoluted? (especially of an argument, story, or sentence) extremely complex and difficult to follow.

It covers the 'massively complex' meaning and also covers the 'poorly organized' meaning too (difficult to follow).

  • Convoluted conglomerate?
    – Rob BB3
    Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 5:12

It's highly informal, but byzantine is a near-fit for what you're looking for.




adjective: Byzantine

1.of or relating to Byzantium, the Byzantine Empire, or the Eastern Orthodox Church.

2.(of a system or situation) excessively complicated, typically involving a great deal of administrative detail.

  • I'm up-voting since it is a great word but it does not include the inevitability of failure that he asked for. Though Byzantium was not in the end a success.
    – Elliot
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 4:24

If you're familiar with some of the classic Western legends and myths, then maybe "Gordian" or "Gordian Knot" might ring some bells. Of course, that story also provides a potential solution -- incisive (hehe) force. Of course, your audience may not be familiar with the story... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordian_Knot

"Labyrinthine" could also work, especially if you are referring to a complex space.

"Chaotic" could work, but it's also rather common and abused.

Or perhaps something like "slapdash monstrosity" might tickle your fancy.


Rat's nest might be a more informal description, and of a lighter degree.

Implies that something has been constructed in a way that is a complete mess, with all kinds of different bits and pieces cobbled together, just like a rat's nest.

I work in web development, and we use this term to describe some of the projects we step in to work on.

  • While I really appreciate the answer, I need this for a formal document, and it wouldn't really fit. P.S. Funnily enough, I am actually describing one of my earliest large-scale programming attempts, and It was truly a rat's nest. It was 500+ lines with no comments, one function, and cryptic variable names.
    – Sam Spade
    Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 5:18
  • That's awesome, we've all done some ugly programming haha. I agree, rat's nest wouldn't fit a formal situation. I am just glad to give some ideas, perhaps new terms.
    – erpfast
    Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 5:30

From The Jargon File (version 4.4.7, 29 Dec 2003) [jargon]:


      1. n. A ridiculously {elephantine} program or system, esp. one that
      is buggy or only marginally functional.

      2. adj. The quality of being monstrous (see the section called
      "Overgeneralization" in the discussion of jargonification). See also

Too late probably, a couple of suggestions:

The simplest answer is sandcastle.

The classic case is 'Tower of Babel' but which was overcomplicated and collapsed from disorganisation; but the image probable carries too much bagggage.

'Borges' Library of Babel' would be better; most people will know it through Umberto Eco's On Literature ISBN: 780436210174 ((Synopsis))

  • 1
    Thank you for your help, and I appreciate the suggestion, but I think 'Tower of Babel' is a bit of a 'Tower of Babel.' While it really is a great reference, it would be a little bit lost on my audience and feel a little forced. I think Grizzly hit the nail on the head, so I accepted his answer, but thanks for the input anyway.
    – Sam Spade
    Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 4:52

It sounds like an 'edifice' on the 'brink' of collapse

Edifice noun

1 - a building, especially one of large size or imposing appearance.

2 - any large, complex system or organization.



Brink noun

3 - a crucial or critical point, especially of a situation or state beyond which success or catastrophe occurs:

We were on the brink of war.


In addition, since you have specifically mentioned at IT system, we often call this a 'burning platform', in that it is not literally burning, but will soon be gone if no-one does anything about it...


How about abysmal?

  1. informal extremely bad; appalling. "the quality of her work is abysmal" synonyms: very bad, dreadful, awful, terrible, frightful, atrocious, disgraceful, deplorable, shameful, hopeless, lamentable;

To me this word has connotations of a mistake that is of titanic or colossal proportions.


mishmash Defined by dictionary.com

a confused mess; hodgepodge; jumble

You could also say massive mishmash or humongous mishmash

humongous, defined by Merriam Webster as

extremely large

Example: "This design is a humongous mishmash of add-ons and revision to the "good ideas" of everyone who walked through the door. Not only is it ugly, but structurally unsound. Scrap it and go back to Square One."


Bloated is the right choice of word.

  • 1
    Hello, durgasai. Your word recommendation may be a good one—but as written it provides no explanation for why it may be good. Please consider making your answer more authoritative by citing a dictionary definition of bloated that indicates how the word can apply to something "massively complex." (Making your answer more complete and self-contained should also reduce its likelihood of being downvoted by site participants who may be put off by its lack of evidence.)
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 2:31

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