I'm looking for a word -a verb, noun and/or adjective- that means a gross oversimplification to the point of misleading, misrepresenting, or dismissing.

The third 'requirement' -dismissing- may be a different word, but I request that too.

As an example, to paraphrase Ernest Rutherford, "biology is just stamp collecting."


  • Possible duplicate of Word or phrase that is used to deconstruct another word
    – Skooba
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 12:45
  • Except Rutherford wasn't being any of these things. The quote is totally out of context, and paraphrased. He was trying to include parts of biology under the auspices of physics. He did say "When we have found how the nucleus of atoms is built up we shall have found the greatest secret of all — except life." Taxonomists had been given short shrift long before Ernst.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 16:51
  • We need to see the sort of sentence where you want to use the word. I've voted to close, but will be happy to retract my vote if you edit your questioni. Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 17:46

3 Answers 3


As an example, to paraphrase Ernest Rutherford, "biology is just stamp collecting."

I believe that is an example of trivializing, rather than just oversimplifying:

make (something) seem less important, significant, or complex than it really is : the problem was either trivialized or ignored by teachers.

New Oxford American Dictionary

  • I like this answer because I believe that the OP implied a bit of malice of casting someone elses idea in a negative light.
    – Tom22
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 17:32

Not meaning to overstate the obvious, but oversimplify mostly fits the bill. I would have put this as a comment but I haven't yet the points.

Oversimplify verb over·sim·pli·fy \ˌō-vər-ˈsim-plə-ˌfī\ to simplify to such an extent as to bring about distortion, misunderstanding, or error. (Merriam-Webster)

  • "Science may be described as the art of systematic over-simplification" - Karl Popper. If it's good enough for Popper ...
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 17:08
  • Yes. this is the obvious, and thanks for the answer, but I am going with Michael Hor, since yeah, there's a bit of malice involved.
    – Bitdiot
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 3:16

Also somewhat obvious but simplistic fits with the negative implication:



Treating complex issues and problems as if they were much simpler than they really are. ‘simplistic solutions’

‘Drug misuse is too complex a problem to be solved with a simplistic, zero tolerance approach.’

‘This is probably a simplistic take on the importance of the issue by both parties.’

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