[Inspired by the What is meant by "steep learning curve"? question]

Is there a phrase similar to steep learning curve (i.e. [some-word] learning curve) describing something that is easy to learn?

  • 1
    No learning curve? :) – Kosmonaut Dec 4 '10 at 15:34
  • "It's easy to pick up" or "It's easy to learn" would make sense. We start wondering how difficult things are to learn when they're actually hard to learn. – Fabien Snauwaert Feb 23 '18 at 8:44
  • Easy to learn subjects have a steep learning curve, how about "a long learning curve" as it requires longer time? – Daniel Katz Apr 6 '18 at 18:23

12 Answers 12


How about gentle learning curve?

  • I like this: it says that the learning is gentle without making any mistakes about the shape of the curve. So a gentle learning curve would be, properly, a steep learning curve! – ShreevatsaR Dec 6 '10 at 13:41
  • 1
    Is it commonly used? – Edwin Ashworth Sep 12 '17 at 23:35

A "gradual learning curve".

You can Google the phrase - it's used all over to imply the opposite of "steep learning curve".


I prefer flat learning curve.

It does not have confusing positive connotations (as in 'gentle' or 'smooth') as mild learning curve is a Bad Thing. Flat means horizontal, ultimately never reaching the value L(x)=1, implying, this is something not possible to learn, no matter how hard you try.

  • 2
    I agree that flat curve is the best opposite for steep curve, but I believe the questioner was in fact looking for something with positive connotations. – ShreevatsaR Dec 6 '10 at 13:40
  • How can something be curved and flat? This sounds more confusing than the other offerings, IMHO. – CJM Dec 6 '10 at 14:08
  • @CJM: A "curve" is a general mathematical term for, roughly, any connected shape that has no width (formally, the image of a continuous function defined on an interval), and in particular straight lines are examples of curves. I imagine most people who know about the meaning of curve as the graph of a mathematical function know this. – ShreevatsaR Dec 6 '10 at 14:38
  • 1
    @ShreevatsaR: In Maths, a curve is [effectively] a line that is not required to be straight. I'd agree that a curve can be straight, especially if sampled appropriately, however it's generally-understood meaning is that is isn't straight. Furthermore, flat cannot be an antonym for steep because a steep curve could equally be flat. For those two reasons, Flat is not an appropriate choice. Steep refers to the rate of change and not the linearity. 'Gentle' does not require the curve to be flat or not, but does infer a lesser rate of change. – CJM Dec 8 '10 at 11:19

I often hear "smooth learning curve"

  • As per my comments on 'flat', I'd argue that 'smooth' is not an appropriate antonym for 'steep'. A curve can be both smooth and steep. – CJM Dec 8 '10 at 11:21
  • for a street curve I agree, for a learning curve I'm less sure. Anyway I just reported it as idiom I often hear at work. – Uberto Dec 8 '10 at 11:35

Just for completeness: As I answered on the 'steep learning curve' question, "steep learning curve" itself technically means something that's easy to learn.

(Admittedly, unless you're going to explain this, or are writing for an appropriate technical audience that understands the phrase in this sense, it is advisable to use a different phrase.)


I'd agree that 'Gentle' is a suitable antonym for 'Steep', but perhaps one might tackle the problem in a different way.

Perhaps, rather than having an 'antonym-of-steep learning curve', it is stated that the subject 'doesn't have a steep learning curve'? My point is, if figuring out the most appropriate opposite was a matter of some debate, perhaps it's easier to negate the original phrase... a phrase that is universally recognised and understood.


To my ear mild learning curve sounds best.


Personal preference:

  1. soft learning curve

  2. no learning curve

  3. light learning curve

  4. benign learning curve

  5. genial learning curve

  6. moderate learning curve


If you think about the verticality of something you could have a "level learning curve".


how about minimal learning curve


From the above posts (which I must admit are quite well technically reasoned out), I am inclined to go for the near literal opposite of "even curve", if anything like that can be found in the vocabulary of the field of study — just for clarity purposes.


Personally, I say "protracted learning-curve" or "shallow learning-curve" to describe the opposite of "shallow-learning curve." Thank ya.

  • Hello, alexander. ELU concentrates on common or reasonably common usage. Have you evidence that this is commonly used? If not, it becomes writing advice and off-topic. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 12 '17 at 23:35
  • My good-man Edwin, quite yes! I'm the Web's preeminent thought-leader- please see my Twitter: I'm always right. Blessings! – alexanderjsingleton Sep 12 '17 at 23:37

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