Is there an English word for a "product made by tinkering".
Such as "Bastel" in German, or "bricolage" in French.

If you need an example sentence:

Das ist keine Software, das ist ein(e) Bastel(ei).
Ce n'est pas du logiciel, c'est un bricolage.
(That's not software, that's a ____ )

Connotation of this is, that the quality is, shall we say, "repulsive"/quick-and-dirty.

  • 18
    Maybe a hack or a kludge.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 9:17
  • 8
    We have an adjective for that — jerry-built. (Merriam-Webster: carelessly or hastily put together.) Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 9:51
  • 7
    Note that bricolage can also be found in English dictionaries. With software, I think "hack" might be the best choice.
    – Zack
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 13:12
  • 2
    @PeterShor I typically hear "jerry-rigged" Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 23:02
  • 3
    I'm a native German speaker. I never heard the noun Bastel before in my entire life. Both Duden and Wiktionary don't know of it either. Bastelei or Pfusch might be more suitable
    – yunzen
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 8:04

17 Answers 17


I think this diagram from a Quora answer covers it nicely:

Continuum of sloppy workarounds

  • 1
    +1 for a bodge (noun), and the entertaining graphic!
    – Steve
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 11:27
  • 3
    Can you give some commentary about all those words? For example, is 'macgyver' a noun or verb? Also I thought that would have been pretty clever but the diagram says it is not.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 11:34
  • 26
    The graph is fun, but I disagree that MacGyver is a low skill/dumb workaround. His whole schtick was that he could pretty much make anything out of anything by using whatever's available in a clever way - he doesn't just slap a piece of duct tape down and call it a day. They didn't make a show about an average guy who comes up with dumb solutions to odd problems, the whole point is that he's a skilled individual who arrives at creative and non-obvious workarounds. Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 19:43
  • 6
    @Arthur: When you MacGyver something, It's be more apt (imo) to say that you created something from parts that you wouldn't expect to be used like that. Whether or not it's an actual fix to the solution is a different matter. If you create a flamethrower out of beans and a leather shoe, that's impressive MacGyvering. If you created it because you needed a haircut, that's... not a good solution, but you did still MacGyver a flamethrower.
    – Flater
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 12:31
  • 8
    What is 'ironic' supposed to mean here? Why is the word 'hacks' upside-down? A 'bodge' must be high skill/clever? This diagram is as clear as mud. Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 16:50
  • Contraption:

A machine or device that appears strange or unnecessarily complicated, and often badly made or unsafe.

  • 6
    Where did that definition come from - its pretty poor.
    – MikeB
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 14:24
  • @MikeBrockington It looks OK to me, though I agree that a source would be nice. Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 13:31
  • I would have stopped after the fourth word, the rest is not accurate - there is a very slight negative connotation, but nowhere near as strong as this suggests.
    – MikeB
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 16:02
  • I pulled that from some on-line dictionary, I forget which one,
    – Jasen
    Commented Jun 8, 2019 at 1:30

A few options:



a usually crude and temporary expedient

source: Merriam-Webster dictionary


transitive verb

to erect, construct, or arrange in a makeshift fashion

source: Merriam-Webster dictionary



1 : built cheaply and unsubstantially

2 : carelessly or hastily put together

source: Merriam-Webster dictionary



organized or constructed in a crude or improvised manner

source: Merriam-Webster dictionary

They are closely related in meaning; Merriam Webster disambiguates: 'Jerry-built' vs. 'Jury-rigged' vs. 'Jerry-rigged'. jury-rigged is makeshift, but not necessarily of low quality. jerry-built is low quality, but not necessarily makeshift (and not in common use, at least not in AmE). jerry-rigged combines the two together to imply both.

Depending on context, there may also be appropriate jargon, such as hack in programming (an improvised work-around to a problem, may be sloppy), or homeowner special in real estate (a modification made to a home, usually poorly implemented, that is in violation of good sense, good taste, and/or building codes).

  • Jury-rig is particularly a good fit for software, as it implies that it's meant to be a temporary solution (but doesn't always end up being so temporary!). So it goes with many software solutions.
    – Michael W.
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 22:57
  • 1
    Jury-rig is not really correct. A Jury-rig has a very specific, clear and simple meaning. A strong wind has knocked over your (say) top half of your mast, so you improvised a quick repair. A "jury-rig" is indeed an improvised quick repair after a disaster.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 2:09
  • @Fattie: The dictionary disagrees. Further, lots and lots of disastrous software engineering problems start out as improvised quick repairs after a disaster. Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 18:33
  • PS - a good example of how hopeless the MW is! It's a simple literal phrase (using sea terms). Oxford "(of a ship) having temporary makeshift rigging." Anyway, sure.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 19:21
  • 1
    @Fattie jury-rig is maintains its nautical roots in BrE, but has basically lost them entirely in AmE. OED, being a British dictionary, may not have the AmE definition, just as MW doesn't have the British definition.
    – asgallant
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 20:41

Specifically related to software, I would say:


A hack is often used by programmers in English (in the US at least) to describe code that may function as desired, but is not up to standards and may have expected or unexpected negative consequences.

A "hack" implies something that was quick, dirty, and technically is functional, but should be corrected and done properly as soon as possible. Hacks are often intended as short term solutions but have a nasty habit of living on far longer than planned.


In modern computing terminology, a "kludge" (or often a "hack") is a solution to a problem, the performance of a task, or a fix to a system that is inefficient, inelegant ("hacky"), or even unfathomable, but which nevertheless (more or less) works.

> Kludge - Wikipedia

  • 1
    please support your answer by adding a source
    – JJJ
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 22:16
  • 1
    American here that has worked in software for 20yrs. Hack is used almost exclusively in this context; I can't think of another common word used for this. Can I be a source? :P Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 20:31
  • I would say that hack could be either poor or very good quality catb.org/jargon/html/H/hack.html
    – Jasen
    Commented Jun 8, 2019 at 2:32

I suggest BODGE

British informal
Make or repair (something) badly or clumsily.

‘the door was bodged together from old planks’



The British English for this is 'lash-up'. This implies that the solution is improvised on the spot with whatever is available, but doesn't necessarily mean that it is a bad or inadequate solution.


What comes immediately to my mind is...


From Merriam-Webster: "lacking significance, adequacy, or completeness"

From Dictionary.com: "insufficient or haphazard; not fully planned or developed"

From Sharry Bobbins


Here's a way of expressing your idea that I have recently come up with in the context of DIY home repairs. I've been wrestling with a problem house and more recently have been househunting, and have been using it a lot.

mickey mouse

I doubt this will be in a dictionary for the usage I've been giving it, but everyone I've tried it with has understood exactly what I meant.

An example sentence, talking about a "staircase" leading to a primitive cellar (it's sturdy but so steep you have to turn around and go down like you go down a ladder):

  • Apologies for the steep stairs -- there wasn't enough head room because of the beams right there. It's a little mickey mouse, but it works for getting into the cellar.

  • I think the seller finished the attic himself. Look at how mickey mouse this paneling is.


Kludge is the one that immediately came to mind.


Specifically for software there is cruft.

It is used particularly for defective, superseded, useless, superfluous, or dysfunctional elements in computer software.

If you need a verb, to cobble up may fit.


I get what you are trying to convey but personally being somewhat of a tinkerer it wouldn't fit exactly


verb [ I usually + adv/prep ] UK ​ /ˈtɪŋ.kər/ US ​ /ˈtɪŋ.kɚ/ ​ to make small changes to something, especially in an attempt to repair or improve it:

He spends every weekend tinkering (around) with his car. I wish the government would stop tinkering with the health service.


So sometimes tinkering will result in an improvement, gain of knowledge or something else even an innovation, but this part got me thinking that tinkering is presented as a negative thing.

Das ist keine Software, das ist ein Bastel(ei).

Ce n'est pas du logiciel, c'est un bricolage.

(That's not software, that's a ____ )

What your are trying to convey here is that, that software is poor design and quality. Even more is like someone es getting offended just by looking at the code(been there), in which case I'd use the word


mishmash noun [ S ] UK ​ /ˈmɪʃ.mæʃ/ US ​ /ˈmɪʃ.mæʃ/ informal ​ a confused mixture:

The new housing development is a mishmash of different architectural styles.


Farrago - us formal disapproving

Hodgepodge - us

Hotchpotch - mainly uk




Meanwhile I believe that Farrago will fit very well as it is a formal disapproval.

Word forms: plural farragoes , plural farragos; countable noun

If you describe something as a farrago, you are critical of it because you think it is a confused mixture of different types of things.

[formal, disapproval]

EG: His own books and memoirs are a farrago of half-truth and outright invention. [+ of]




Usually, these describe the materials in an unfinished (still being tinkered with) state, but I'd imagine that the phrase is usable for less serious endeavors.



might work here in the sense of "assembled fast" e.g. "a quickly thrown-together software application"

From macmillandictionary.com: to make something quickly because you do not have much time

  • Please add a definition with a reference. Also, elaborate why your answer fits the question.
    – JJJ
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 14:59

You can call something a hack, as other answers said, but it has strong connotations that it might not work properly.

You could instead say that this solution has been hacked together. Emphasize on the lack of nice paint and finish by adding a time span: hacked together very quickly / in one afternoon.

You may also want to stress how little effort has been spent on the presentation and polishing of the product, and as such call it a quick and dirty effort.

These two words imply less a connotation that this is not a proper solution, but rather try to emphasize that while proper (or even just sufficient), it might lack beauty or elegance. Compare this to a sausage factory (an unappealing process to generate something familiar).


"tweak" (noun) (informal) a fine adjustment to a mechanism or system. Source https://www.google.com/search?q=tweak


Specifically about your example sentence -- at the office, I'd usually complete that sentence:

That's not software, that's a prototype.

This is a way to say, "That solution might seem to work, but we can't deliver it to customers."

Software developers are supposed to know the difference between prototyping and professional development, so depending on the context, this can be a subtle, or not-so-subtle jab.

The non-ironic case is when a prototype was created deliberately, and non-technical folks naively want to use it as-is.

Kludge or hack convey the same meaning, but are more aggressive. Prototype is more polite but definitely conveys the point that the software is not built on sound architecture.


Skunkworks - an experimental laboratory or department of a company or institution, typically smaller than and independent of its main research division. Although, skunkworks usually describes the effort involved in tinkering.

  • 1
    It might be used to describe the place where tinkering is done but it doesn't really describe the end result, i.e. the product, of that tinkering. Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 16:01
  • Skunkworks also has connotations of something being done in secret, often quite innovative and groundbreaking, and is generally a compliment rather than being disparaging as the OP requested.
    – Malvineous
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 2:55

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