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When something is unnecessarily complex, it is _____.

Example: The statement "That solution is no longer unnecessary" is ______, couldn't we simply say "That solution is now necessary"?

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    Unparsimonious. Questions which lack results of research are out of scope. Writing advice requests are out of scope. Questions that invite many equally valid answers are out of scope. Word or phrase requests are out of scope, unless they are expert-level, particularly interesting, unique, and thought-provoking, and show effort and research. For an introduction to the site, take the Tour. For help writing a good question, see How to Ask.
    – MetaEd
    Jul 27, 2016 at 22:37
  • I would like to point out that this is a poor English sentence in the first place due to the double negative. The sample sentence should not even be used. Double negatives are considered bad, at least in my experience, are always frowned upon. (For the record I am not saying it's a bad sample sentence, just that you should not use it in day to day English.)
    – coteyr
    Jul 28, 2016 at 12:35
  • I would sooner fill the blank in the example with redundant than any flavor of "over-complicated".
    – talrnu
    Jul 29, 2016 at 15:11
  • Refuse to add another answer when there's already twenty, but I'd say obsfucated works. Jul 29, 2016 at 15:31
  • @talnru The sentence isn't redundant; perhaps it's necessary -- though it could do with improvement, as others have pointed out.
    – Rosie F
    Jul 29, 2016 at 15:33

12 Answers 12

48

Your particular example is not only overly complicated, but especially confusing as a result. I would therefore use convoluted:

1 (Especially of an argument, story, or sentence) extremely complex and difficult to follow —Oxford Dictionaries


Edited to add:

Note that the word's original meaning is literally "twisted" or "coiled", but it is now commonly used (at least in the US) metaphorically to mean confusingly complicated, as attested in the Oxford definition.

I think the connotation of twisting back on itself is quite useful here. Not only does the double negative cause a "reversal" in meaning, but it is likely to make the reader go back and re-read the end of the sentence so that the reader's eyes trace a Z-shaped path across the sentence: it is both figuratively and physically contorted.

A similar word is tortuous, which also has its roots in physical twists and turns (compare contort) but which is now often used figuratively. I'm more reluctant to recommend tortuous as I think it's easily confused with either torturous or tortious, but it would otherwise also work here.

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    I like this one - it is a (subjectively) "nicer" word than "overcomplicated". Jul 28, 2016 at 9:44
  • I think convoluted is a really good answer, as the use of a double negative all adds cognitive load.
    – coteyr
    Jul 28, 2016 at 12:36
  • -1 Sorry but I disagree. Convoluted is actually a specific class of shapes that can be either complex or simple, and simply means things rolled up together. Rolling up a sleeping bag makes it convoluted but still simple.
    – TechZen
    Jul 28, 2016 at 13:21
  • To make it self-referential, one could say "overconvoluted". Jul 28, 2016 at 13:38
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    @TechZen Your definition is correct, but not exclusive, as noted in my edit. Many words have a "technical" definition (which may be most familiar in particular fields) but still be used appropriately in different senses. Cf. "acute" and "obtuse" which have very specific definitions in geometry but can also be used to mean "clever" and "stupid", respectively, among other meanings.
    – 1006a
    Jul 28, 2016 at 14:30
25

As @Jim said in comments, the obvious word seems to be overcomplicated

ODO:

overcomplicated: more complicated than necessary

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    I also learned, today, that you don't hyphenate overcomplicated. Interesting. Jul 28, 2016 at 3:45
  • You would need to regard a purpose. "Necessary" in itself doesn't mean anything. Jul 28, 2016 at 9:36
  • @mathreadler The concept itself if clearly subjective. The question asks for a word to describe something that has been asssessed as more complicated than necessary. The quote in my answer is simply showing you how the Oxford Online Dictionary defines "overcomplicated". "Necessary" clearly implies "assessed as necessary" Jul 28, 2016 at 9:42
10

A Rube Goldberg or Goldbergian.

1.
having a fantastically complicated, improvised appearance: a Rube Goldberg arrangement of flasks and test tubes.

2.
deviously complex and impractical: a Goldbergian scheme for reducing taxes.

-Dictionary.com

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    This is the American variant of Heath Robinson.
    – Simba
    Jul 28, 2016 at 14:57
8

You could use over-engineered: unnecessarily complicated

Ferraris are over-engineered

or bloated: excessive in size or amount.

the company trimmed its bloated labor force

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    I feel like "bloat" doesn't fit perfectly as it deals more with size than complexity Jul 28, 2016 at 6:36
5

I think convoluted would work well in this case.

Oxford Dictionaries provides these definitions (for American English)...

  1. (especially of an argument, story, or sentence) extremely complex and difficult to follow.
  2. (technical) intricately folded, twisted, or coiled.

Similar definitions are available from Dictionary.com, Merriam-Webster, and Wiktionary.

In addition, the word convolute (and its conjugations) can be used in at least three different ways.

  1. Convolution (noun): "Bill X has many convolutions designed to hide the politicians' true agenda."
  2. Convoluted (verb): "The politicians intentionally convoluted Bill X in order to hide its meaning"
  3. Convoluted (adjective): "Bill X was written in a very convoluted fashion in order to hide its true meaning."
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  • In some special cases, deceptive might also be an appropriate word. This would only apply if something was written in a convoluted manner in order to hide meaning. Jul 28, 2016 at 6:42
  • Please do add links to Dictionary.com or Wikitionary or Merriam-Webster for your answer, even if you are providing your own example. I've made edits for you to see what we mean. Using "define" in Google produces different results for different people, so I linked your citation directly to the engine that Google uses to produce its results. This will help ensure that all users get the same results.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Jul 29, 2016 at 15:15
  • @KitZ.Fox Thank you. That makes more sense now. I didn't realize that Google changed its definitions based on the user. I will add the other links. Jul 29, 2016 at 18:41
4

Heath Robinson is typically used for an over-complex machine or design, but I think you could also use it for a describing a 'convoluted phrase'.

E.g. The statement "That solution is no longer unnecessary" is a Heath Robinson, couldn't we simply say "That solution is now necessary"?

Possible variants: [Heath Robinson|Heath Robinson expression|Heath Robinson-esque]

a Heath Robinson machine or method is funny and clever but much too complicated for whatever job it is intended to perform — macmillandictionary.com

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    This is the British variant of Rube Goldberg.
    – Simba
    Jul 28, 2016 at 14:58
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Cruft

The word you are looking for is cruft.

From ESR’s Jargon File:

  1. n. Excess; superfluous junk; used esp. of redundant or superseded code.

From Oxford Dictionaries Online:

Computing, informal

Badly designed, unnecessarily complicated, or unwanted code or software:
‘this removes all unnecessary cruft from Word documents saved as HTML’

If you want an adjective not a noun, the corresponding derived term is crufty.

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    Something that is badly designed is not necessarily overcomplicated. Something that is full of superflous content is not necessarily overcomplicated. Therefore, something that is overcomplicated is certainly crufty, but something that is crufty is not necessarily overcomplicated. So crufty is not a good word to use to tell someone that something is overcomplicated, if that is specifically what you are trying to convey. Jul 28, 2016 at 4:32
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    We call it "cruft" in our code at work when a coder has inadvertently left in too much commented-out code or left debugging statements in at a level too far beyond development. That's not added complexity -- it's just... cruft. Jul 28, 2016 at 12:58
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    I think cruft denotes an accumulation of no functional parts of a system, like barnacles growing on the hull of a ship. Could just be rust. Cruft can be simple, its just in the way.
    – TechZen
    Jul 28, 2016 at 13:35
2

Superfluous (a) :

1.) being more than is sufficient or required; excessive.
2.) unnecessary or needless.
3.) Obsolete. possessing or spending more than enough or necessary; extravagant.

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  • Superfluous is not a word to express the concept of "overcomplicated". Something that is overcomplicated has superfluous complexity, but saying that something is "superfluous" doesn't mean that it is overcomplicated. Jul 31, 2016 at 0:24
1

How about

Obscure:

Obscure: not clearly expressed or easily understood.

Or

Obfuscated:

Obfuscated: something that has been purposefully made to be more difficult to understand or decode.

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  • Neither of these in themselves imply complexity. Complexity may cause obfuscation, but it's not the only way something can be made more difficult to understand or decode. Jul 28, 2016 at 9:51
  • @GreenAsJade For example, giving too few details, beating around the bush, or not being direct with your meaning.
    – wjandrea
    Jul 28, 2016 at 14:43
0

I'd be inclined to use kludgy.

Though the meaning of kludge has shifted somewhat over the decades (and was never particularly clear in the first place), a former coworker who was born and raised in Holland explained to me (ca 1976) that the Dutch word "kluge" (I think that's how he spelled it -- he pronounced it "clue-gay") had the idiomatic meaning "deviously clever" in Dutch.

While most etymologies tend to derive the term from a similar German word, I've always considered this Dutch origin to express the meaning most clearly -- something that's a little "too clever for its own good".

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    I don't think that a kludge is necessarily over-complicated. Indeed, it may be a kudgy but simple solution. The common dictionary hits for that word centre around inelegant rather than overcomplicated. Jul 28, 2016 at 3:24
  • [Maybe not:] (etymonline.com/index.php term=kludge&allowed_in_frame=0) Either it’s a dutch homophone or the meaning has shifted. I think in dutch it might have denoted either a fouled hull or waterway, much like the dutch 'zuc', meaning the backdrag of a ship's wake, became "suck" in English. I have always heard "Kludge" to mean an inelegant improvised solution, similar to "Jury Rigged."
    – TechZen
    Jul 28, 2016 at 13:33
  • @TechZen - As I said, the person who told me this was a native-born speaker of the Dutch language, and one who was quite astute technically. And the definition his explanation implied was very much in keeping with the meaning of the term as I heard it used by several quite erudite colleagues (who at the time had been in the industry for 20 years or so). Other origin stories I've seen don't come close.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 29, 2016 at 0:44
-1

How about prolix?

It refers more to wordiness than complexity, but it fits and is a nice Scrabble word.

-1

Another alternative could be:

exaggerate:

to make something seem larger, more important, better, or worse than it really is.

Example:

"That solution is no longer unnecessary" is exaggerated, couldn't we simply say "That solution is now necessary"?

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  • Not OP, but I don't feel like this harnesses the complexity aspect they are looking for all of the time. For instance, I can exaggerate on how much money an item costs: "See that iPhone? It costs £3,000." Obviously I have exaggerated the price, but I haven't made it the statement more complex per se.
    – intrepidM
    Jul 29, 2016 at 0:55

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