An example of this could be:

You need to install some software on a few PCs. It'll take you a few minutes per PC

Or you could create an automated system, which is more efficient in the long run, but takes hours to set up, making it relatively pointless

The sentence would be "you could create an automated setup, but it'd be a bit ____"

I don't think redundant is the right word, but it's in the direction I'm thinking of

  • 4
    I am a little stumped by your question. You said the automated system would be "more efficient in the long run," but then you also said installing it would be "relatively pointless." So why (or under what conditions) would you NOT want efficiency in the long run? I'm assuming, in other words, you will need to install more software on the same PC's in the future, so why would the automated system be pointless? Oct 19 '17 at 12:44
  • @rhetorician - preparing for a long run that may never come is counterproductive to the task at hand.
    – Mazura
    Oct 19 '17 at 15:53
  • @Mazura "may be" counterproductive rather than "is", hence the confusion. I think the example doesn't really fit what the OP is looking for, which is a situation where solution A is clearly unnecessarily longer than solution B.
    – JBentley
    Oct 19 '17 at 17:06
  • 1
    Overkill is a much better choice than circuitous. Circuitous means going around the problem, but what you're actually looking for is a word for approaching the problem in an overly complicated/effort-requiring way that while the best choice in some situations is far too much effort for this particular case. Of the two choices, it's not even a debate, overkill is far better Oct 20 '17 at 1:23
  • 1
    The answer depends on what you feel is more important to express. Do you want to express how indirect the approach is? Then use "circuitous" or something else. Do you want to express that it's an up-front cost that may or may not pay off? Then its a either a "gamble" or an "investment", depending on the risk involved.
    – 16807
    Oct 20 '17 at 18:18

14 Answers 14



(of a route or journey) longer than the most direct way.

‘the canal followed a circuitous route’

figurative ‘a circuitous line of reasoning’


Figurative example:

‘This preliminary question is best approached by a circuitous route.’

In your situation the route is best not approached in a circuitous manner.

  • 1
    In my head I was thinking of another word which I can't exactly remember, but this fits so much better!
    – Tom Gibbs
    Oct 19 '17 at 12:42
  • @TomGibbs Thanks. Note that these kinds of questions often get multiple responses, and you will maximize your chances of getting more suggestions if you unselect my answer, at least for the time being. (I like my answer, but there might be something come along that you like better.) Oct 19 '17 at 12:48
  • circuitous (going around in circles) seems more apt of the repetitive solution, not of the ``longcut''.
    – hkBst
    Oct 27 '17 at 10:28
  • @hkbst circuitous does not mean "going around in circles" Oct 27 '17 at 13:55
  • @Clare, circuitous means circuit-like and a circuit is like a circle (at least topologically). I did not mean to equate it to the idiom ``going around in circles'' meaning to make absolutely no progress.
    – hkBst
    Oct 28 '17 at 11:02

What about overkill? I've read it several times referring to situations like the one you mention.

o·ver·kill (ō′vər-kĭl′) n.

  1. The destructive use of military force beyond the amount needed to destroy an enemy.
  2. The excessive use of force in killing an individual or organism.
  3. Elimination or drastic reduction of an animal population by hunting or killing.
  4. An excess of what is necessary or appropriate for a particular end: "government overkill in dealing with dissent" (Jesse Unruh).

overkill. (n.d.) American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. (2011). Retrieved October 19 2017 from https://www.thefreedictionary.com/overkill

  • 8
    I prefer this to the currently accepted answer. Circuitous certainly describes the question in the header, but with the question body taken into account - setting up an automated process for something that only needs to be done once or twice would indeed be overkill.
    – Baldrickk
    Oct 19 '17 at 15:51
  • 3
    +1 Hello, Silvia: How about registering? You came close to hitting a home run on your first answer!
    – ab2
    Oct 19 '17 at 23:52
  • overkill is by far the best suggestion here - good one.
    – Fattie
    Oct 22 '17 at 16:26
  • actually @Baldrickk your comment is absolutely, precisely, spot on! Notice above I mention that the headline here is, basically, wrong, it has no connection to the actual question.
    – Fattie
    Oct 22 '17 at 16:44
  • @Fattie yep. It's an efficient solution, where the short term costs won't outweigh the short term benefits, and actually taking a circuitous route (i.e. doing it by hand) is more efficient for a one-off task.
    – Baldrickk
    Oct 23 '17 at 12:16

In taking the 'long way round' a problem (as the question states it) one would be solving the problem in a roundabout way.

'not in a simple, direct, or quick way'

Cambridge Dictionary



Originally meaning twisted or coiled, convoluted is often used to refer to a long or complex process.


I would use long-winded, though technically this is more to do with writing or speech: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/long-winded


It's colloquial (I probably wouldn't use it in formal writing), but I might refer to this as a longcut, phrased like “…but it'd be a bit of a longcut.”

This is intended of course to evoke the idea that while one might think that it's a shortcut, in fact it's the opposite of a shortcut and will take longer.

From Wiktionary via its CC BY-SA 3.0 license:


longcut (plural longcuts)

  1. a path between two points that is not the shortest or quickest route
    • 1986, Andrew A. Rooney, Word for Word, G.P. Putnam's Sons, page 55:
      I got to work twenty-three minutes later than when I take the longcut.
    • 1994, Gary Paulson, Winterdance, Harcourt Brace, page 69:
      The shortcut proved, as most of them seem to do, to be a "longcut"
    • 2006, Kathy Morey, Hawaii Trails: Walks, Strolls and Treks on the Big Island, Wilderness Press, page 245:
      It's no shortcut, it's a "longcut."

Not perfect, but a comparative or something of "front-loaded" would be okay for your purposes. enter image description here

  • There is a reason I cropped it this way.
    – SAH
    Oct 22 '17 at 5:59
  • what's the reason? Why not just quote the actual text?
    – Bassie-c
    Jan 12 '19 at 17:48

There is an expression "to swat a fly with a sledgehammer." (I'm not sure where it originated, but I first heard it from Dr. McCoy on a Star Trek original series episode...)

See "To kill a fly with a..."?

  • Actually one answer where you linked suggests it may be "to break a (butter)fly on the wheel" or "cracking a nut with a sledgehammer"...
    – hkBst
    Oct 27 '17 at 10:35

tedious perhaps?

In a general example, one could say "Solution B is a more tedious approach."

In your example, the sentence could be modified to: "you could create an automated setup, but it'd be too tedious to be worth it."

  • Repetition is generally thought to be tedious...
    – hkBst
    Oct 27 '17 at 10:30

In ham radio when you talk to a station by pointing your beam away from them, so that your signal bounces all the way the long way around the world and back to them, we call it "long path."

  • Welcome to EL&U. Can you provide a source for your answer, please, and explain how it fits in the sentence proposed in the question? Oct 20 '17 at 0:52

Non-software-engineers may not realize that the process described, is indeed, exactly how all modern software works.

The most common phrase you hear today is ...

"Automate everything..."

Or you will hear aphorisms along the lines ... "in software you might do something twice, but you'll only ever do something three times, once!"

You always trade "more work now" to avoid work in the future. Every time - always.

This applies on the biggest imaginable industry scales ("the baas revolution" is, precisely, that), and on the smallest working scales (you might write a extension to "double a number" rather than laboriously typing that out each time).

Note! that' Tom's exact, specific literal example:

... install some software on a few PCs. It'll take you a few minutes per PC. Or you could create an automated system, which is more efficient in the long run...

Note that there are, literally, massive companies (with 100s of staff) which, do literally nothing other than addressing that specific problem! Automating "installing software on PCs".

It is a massive, billion dollar issue in large corporations. (Indeed, a trivial everyday example - every person reading this uses the "software installation and update" stuff on the common phone platforms, every day: those systems are incredibly complex and have 1000s of engineers working on it.) An absolutely exact example of the "automate everything!" dictum.

Now finally, to answer Tom's question: sure, you can imagine someone going crazy and spending days automating something - where it was overkill!

Indeed the best term there is


The many other suggestions here (circuitous, tortuous, long-winded etc) are not really correct - because they don't capture the idea that, indeed, automation is the normal, correct "thing" (software engineering "simply is" "automate everything", that "is" software engineering).

"Overkill" completely implies that

"...in this case..."

you went to far.

Regarding the terms like circuitous, tortuous, long-winded etc. Say you were indeed writing some software. (ie: you were automating something. that's all software is.) Within that effort, your code may be (in a word) "bad", it may be long-winded, tortuous etc. In that context, you would use terms such as circuitous, tortuous, long-winded and those are the commonly used terms for precisely that.

However, it does not really parse to describe "automating something" (ie .. "making software") as circuitous, tortuous, long-winded if it was a case of "unnecessary automation": the only term I can really think of for "unnecessary" automation (or "unnecessary" anything) is "overkill".

As a final somewhat confusing point: almost all software engineers, now, and for say 10 years at least, agree that - quite simply - it's literally impossible to automate too much. Automation is just never wrong. (The whole point of, say, the whole "open source" fiasco is that you automate every little thing, and throw it up on github so that, well, one by one ever little thing becomes instant to get done.)




  • full of twists and turns. "the route is remote and tortuous" "the road follows a tortuous route" antonyms: straight

  • excessively lengthy and complex. "a tortuous argument" antonyms: straightforward



to follow a winding and turning course; without fixed direction




Of less than the highest standard or quality.


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