To which extent is just interchangeable with simply, as in the example?

It's becoming more than just annoying.
It's becoming more than simply annoying.

Is just synonym of simply in just any case or are there situations where the two adverbs convey slightly different meanings?

Also, Google gives 1,800,000,000 results for just and only 295,000,000 results for simply. Is one preferred over the other?

  • 2
    Re: Google, "simply", for all I know, is only a word in English, whereas "just" is a word in many languages (English, German, Swedish, Latvian...). Also, there's the given name "Just" and the family name "Just", and Google doesn't care about capitalization.
    – RegDwigнt
    Nov 10, 2010 at 15:45
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    Also, "just" has more meanings than "simply", so it's entirely expected that it occurs more often in any given corpus.
    – Marthaª
    Nov 10, 2010 at 18:25
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    Oh, though of another synonym you can employ: merely annoying.
    – Marthaª
    Nov 10, 2010 at 18:26
  • @RegDwight Indeed, comparing "just" vs. "simply" in Google was short-sighted. I think it should have been "just annoying" vs. "simply annoying". Anyway, thanks for your comment. Nov 11, 2010 at 4:07
  • @Martha Ha, merely annoying -- nice synonym, thanks. Nov 11, 2010 at 4:09

4 Answers 4


Just and simply have some overlapping meanings, but definitely do not overlap in all meanings. In your example, it is a case where they have essentially the same meaning.

However, just (the adverb) can also mean "only now". For example:

How long have you been here? — I just got here. (=I arrived right now.)

Simply cannot be used in this instance.

(Note: I assume that we are only talking about just as an adverb; just can be used as an adjective too, meaning "right" or "fair". I don't think you are concerned about that one, because it is clearly totally different in usage.)

  • Yep, sure, in this question I only refer to just as an adverb. Thanks for the answer. Nov 11, 2010 at 4:04

The second sentence sounds odd and is incorrect. "Just" and "Simply" do not have the same meaning, however, these can be interchanged in most situations; though not in this one.

  • When you say "This is just annoying", it means that it is justified to classify the object, or the act, in question as annoying. Nov 10, 2010 at 6:02
  • When you say, "This is simply annoying", it means that you don't need to use your grey matter to know that this is annoying. It's something which is quite obvious. Nov 10, 2010 at 6:05
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    @Prateek - I would disagree with your interpretations. If someone says "this is just annoying" I would take that to mean that it has no other redeeming characteristic. Similarly, "this is simply annoying" would indicate that it is not complex enough to include additional values.
    – Dusty
    Nov 10, 2010 at 15:12
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    Prateek, why does "simply annoying" sound odd to you? It's not at all incorrect, and it means exactly the same thing as "just annoying": merely annoying, with no other remarkably bad characteristics.
    – Marthaª
    Nov 10, 2010 at 18:25
  • @Martha "Simply annoying" doesn't sounds odd; but "this is more than simply annoying" does. Nov 11, 2010 at 3:05

As adverb, just means:

  • exactly;
  • very recently;
  • barely; by little;
  • simply.

There are then cases where just can replaced with simply without to change meaning to the sentence.

As examples of usage of just the NOAD reports the following sentences:

That's just what I need.
You're a human being, just like everyone else.
Conditions were just as bad.
I've just seen the local paper.
I got here just after nine.
They were just interested in making money.

There also phrases where you need to use just, as in just about, just as well, just in case, just a minute; replace just with simply, and you get a phrase without sense.

The results obtained from Google don't mean that, as just appears more frequently than simply, just is more preferred. As the words are not synonyms, comparing them is like to compare the number of sentences containing house with the number of sentences containing moon.
With Google, then (as reported by other comments), you don't obtain results for English only, and you can obtain also results for phrases that are not grammatically correct.


"Just" (adverbial), "merely", "only", and "simply" can mean exactly the same thing in certain contexts. However, as kiamlaluno points out, there are at least four distinct meanings of "just" used as an adverb.

In the example "just as well" provided by kiamlaluno, the meaning of "just" is "equally", but it is not being used an adverb.

Dusty misapplies one of the meanings of "simply" ("not complex enough to include additional values") which is irrelevant to the case at hand.

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