Suppose I have a taxonomy, which describes animals, that looks like this

+ Animal 
  + Mammal 
    + Cat 
    + Dog

And I want people to use this taxonomy to label a set of 100 images of cats and dogs. Imagine that, instead of using 'cat' and 'dog', people have mostly described these images as 'animal' and 'mammal', say, for 90% of the images.

I want a word or phrase to describe this 'misuse of too generic concept', i.e., they should've used 'cat' and 'dog' that is more specific in the taxonomy to describe the data. Instead, they chose to use a more generic one that would not be as specific or as appropriate.

At the moment I just say, as above, 'misuse of too generic concept'. But is there a better and shorter way to refer to this problem? e.g., 'overuse of generic concept', but that does not seem to capture the problem here...

  • 3
    Do you specifically want a term for "misuse of too generic concept", or would "more generic concept" do? We say that "mammal" is a hypernym of "cat" and "dog". ("Hyperonym" is better formed than "hypernym", but "hypernym" seems to be used more.)
    – Rosie F
    Commented Apr 21, 2023 at 11:35
  • Thanks I think I could use hypernym to describe this problem, thank you!
    – Ziqi
    Commented Apr 21, 2023 at 11:42
  • 5
    It's generalization - or if you insist on a term implying "misuse", perhaps overgeneralization (but that may have unwanted domain-specific implications). Commented Apr 21, 2023 at 11:56
  • If you don't mind to use some pretentious linguistic vocabulary, consider archilexeme
    – Graffito
    Commented Apr 21, 2023 at 13:14
  • 1
    *a too generic concept is ungrammatical. It should be a concept too generic. See the many famous videos of "Maru and the too small box". Too is the negative version of so -- instead of so ADJ that S, it means so ADJ that NOT S Commented Apr 21, 2023 at 18:17

1 Answer 1


This could be called underspecification. Wiktionary defines it as:

Inadequate specification; failure to specify in enough detail.

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