Are simplify and facilitate interchangeable? The Oxford dictionary defines them as:

simplify: make (something) simpler or easier to do or understand

facilitate: make (an action or process) easy or easier

  • General reference - obviously if something is simplified (made more simple) this often makes it easier to understand, implement, etc. And often to facilitate something (increase facilities for, promote, help forward) involves making it simpler. But the dictionary definitions only overlap at the crude level of "make easier". – FumbleFingers Mar 5 '12 at 16:58
  • This question would probably not have been closed if there were some elucidated question about how you think they are the same or different. I disagree with @FumbleFingers; it's not obvious. But you need to ask something more than what looks like a homework question – Mitch Mar 5 '12 at 23:02
  • @Mitch: Hmm. So you think the difference between simple and easy isn't obvious? As befits its etymology, facilitate did once have the meaning simplify, but that was always rare, and according to OED it's now obsolete. I would expect any dictionary to clarify that the meaning of the word today is connected with helping, assisting. – FumbleFingers Mar 5 '12 at 23:30
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    @FumbleFingers: it's obvious to me, but those two dictionary entries look identical, or rather, if one were to read them for the first time, they look pretty much the same. So I can understand that if you don't already know those words, then it might be difficult to understand the nuance of the difference. There are all sorts of dumb questions; this is in the direction of a good one. – Mitch Mar 6 '12 at 1:04
  • @Mitch: I guess. They are both very "compact" definitions. I'm surprised Oxford online gives so little detail, but if I just Google define facilitate the different nuances of that word are clear to me without even leaving Google's homepage. – FumbleFingers Mar 6 '12 at 1:11

Facilitate is often used specifically with an agent, eg: he facilitated the meeting, or the software facilitates the accurate recording of information. The event or process remains the same, but the subject is helped to progress through it by the agent.

Simplify is more commonly used to imply the process or event has been made simpler through changing its structure or rules, although as commented below, this may not make it easier to carry out the process.

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    Simplification does not necessarily make something easier; for example reducing the number of steps in a process may make it harder to understand and to complete, but would still be (over-) simplification – Tim Lymington Mar 5 '12 at 12:19

Facilitate implies an external assistance that makes something easier to do or accomplish.

Simplify implies a reduction in complexity. Certain tasks can be facilitated via simplification, but sometimes, things can be simplified too far, as noted in other answers.

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