Gambiarra in Brazilian Portuguese means a device, solution, or means to an end made impromptu, usually in a sloppy way and lacking care.

I was wondering if there was a single word in English for such a concept.

The closest I found was the two-word verb 'jerry-rig,' but I couldn't find a noun for it.

  • 1
    Could you edit your question to give an English sentence, indicating where this word would fall within it to demonstrate its use? (Just use something like [ X ] to show where the noun should go)
    – Andrew Leach
    Dec 19, 2012 at 12:04
  • 5
    the term you are looking for an alternative to is "jury-rig"
    – JamesRyan
    Dec 19, 2012 at 17:29
  • 3
    Merriam Webster claims that jerry-rigged is probably a blend of jerry-built and jury-rigged.
    – Kaz
    Dec 19, 2012 at 18:51
  • 1
    A more accurate definition of "Gambiarra" would be "a device, solution, or means to an end made impromptu, usually in a sloppy way and lacking care". Dec 19, 2012 at 19:30
  • 1
    @kaz, jury-rigged and jerry-built mean different things. Jury-rigged is a temporary/emergency fix. Jerry-built is a cheap poor-quality negligent job. Jerry-rigged is, as you say, presumably a mis-hearing/confusion of the two
    – mgb
    Dec 20, 2012 at 4:38

12 Answers 12


Besides Cool's good suggestion of
slapdash (“Done hastily; haphazard; careless”, but I'd substitute not careful in place of careless)
and suggestion of
slipshod (“Done poorly or too quickly; slapdash”, but I'd say slipshod work is lower in quality than slapdash work),

and the suggestions in comments of
hack (“An expedient, temporary solution, meant to be replaced with a more elegant solution at a later date” or “A try, an attempt”),
kludge (“an improvised device, usually crudely constructed” or “any construction or practice, typically inelegant, designed to solve a problem temporarily or expediently”),
jury-rig (“To create a makeshift, ad hoc solution from resources at hand” with synonyms MacGyver and hack), and
MacGyver (“To assemble, or cause to be repaired or completed, an object, device, machine, or project from duct tape as the preferred repair tool, but in its absence, other items, (normally common, ordinary and mundane such as a rubber band or paper clip)...”),

also consider
lash-up (“A crude improvisation or bodged effort”),
bodge (“To do a clumsy or inelegant job, usually as a temporary repair; patch up; repair, mend”), and
stop-gap (“A temporary measure or short-term fix used until something better can be obtained”).

[Note, I edited my former answer into this sort-of-bulleted list, and added interpretive notes on slipshod and slapdash.]

  • 1
    I like stop-gap
    – Cool Elf
    Sep 15, 2012 at 16:03

My suggestion is "kludge." It was originally used for a computer program that was thrown together hastily and without regard for good practices, but it's slipped into the general vocabulary. For example, there's a book called Kludge, whose premise is that the human brain is one.

  • 1
    I like this answer better than my own. +1
    – Robusto
    Dec 19, 2012 at 12:50
  • The word 'kludge' is...derived from the German adjective klug, originally meaning 'smart' or 'witty'.... 'Kludge' eventually came to mean 'not so smart'. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kludge#Pronunciation_and_etymology
    – Kris
    Dec 20, 2012 at 15:08
  • @Kris It looks like shortly after your comment here someone edited that Wikipedia entry to say the direct opposite: that the claim of its origin from klug is entirely fictitious, for humorous effect, and that it's also very unlikely. Sep 25, 2015 at 0:51

A nice single word for this is makeshift. This carries all of the right meanings, because it refers to something which is temporarily made to fit a purpose, and is of lesser quality than something more permanent and properly made. Something makeshift is almost the same thing as something jerry-rigged or jury-rigged.

Most other words do not cover the full range of meaning. For instance a hack or kludge is not necessarily something temporary. This word comments on the inelegance of a solution, which may actually be intended to be permanent. Sometimes only critics regard some work as a kludge or hack, not its creator.

The words slapdash and slipshod are also comments on quality, not on intent, as do words like botch, crap and so on. The latter is a somewhat crude word, because it is a synonym for feces and defecation, as a noun and as a verb, respectively. Slipshod work is intended to be permanent, but carried out in a way that lacks diligence. A slipshod solution is worse than a kludge, because not only is it inelegant or improper in some way, but it is also of poor quality and unreliable. Kludge solutions are sometimes perfectly reliable and long lasting. They just don't fit the surrounding design in some esthetic sense.

The word stopgap refers to something which temporarily fixes something which is broken. It literally refers to plugging a gap to stop a leak. For instance, it is possible to say that someone used a broomstick as a makeshift axle, but not as a stopgap axle. Some things which are stopgap cannot be makeshift. For instance, an emergency loan could be a stopgap solution to a cash flow problem, but it is not makeshift money.

A workaround is something which avoids a problem that cannot be fixed under the circumstances. Literally, it refers to a detour: working in such a way that the problem is somehow avoided, thereby making progress "around" it. If you use a heavy wrench as a substitute hammer, that cannot be called a workaround for the problem of not having a hammer, but you can call it a makeshift hammer.

The words impromptu and improvisation have a broader meaning, not specific to inventing a temporary solution. When a jazz musician improvises a passage, it is not some makeshift music to solve the problem that someone didn't compose the notes. Or at least, that would be a sarcastic view on the artform.


Bodge / bodged. Locally we would also say frigged, hacked.

Uses: "Bodge it up to make it work", "We don't have X but we could bodge something up to do the job", "That's a bodge-job" (bad job), "A bodged job"...

It can also just be "That's a bodge", "It's a bodge", etc. It's probably the most recognised term in UK English for what's being described, see Wikipedia's Bodger entry.

It's not always negative; respect is given for ingenuity, audacity, original thinking, and problem-solving, esp. in the face of urgent need, emergency, or adverse conditions.


From Oxford English Dictionary (OED) -

Cobble, n.

A clumsy mending.

Cobble, v.

1 a. trans. To mend or repair roughly or clumsily; to patch up

2 a. To put together or join roughly or clumsily.

Botch, n.

  1. A botched place or part, a flaw or blemish resulting from unskilful workmanship.

  2. A bungled piece of work. So botch-work.


I'd suggest using the adjective "slapdash," as in:

slapdash work

slapdash repairs

You could also try "slipshod" :

He did a slipshod job.

slipshod construction

In a more particular context, you might be looking for the noun:



  • 3
    "Slipshod" to me suggests "of poor quality", rather than hasty or crude. You might consider "jury-rigged" in your last category. Sep 15, 2012 at 14:55
  • Thanks for that, StoneyB. I had a delayed look at the link, and I guess the expression the OP's looking for is more likely positive
    – Cool Elf
    Sep 15, 2012 at 15:23
  • 2
    If the workaround is particularly clever, you could also describe it as having been MacGyvered, but it is a little bit colloquial.
    – Cameron
    Sep 15, 2012 at 15:27
  • Also, now I come to think of it, bricolage, though I'm not sure it's really English yet, except in anthropological or artistic contexts. Sep 15, 2012 at 15:37
  • You're right, @Cameron. And some outside our generation might not get the reference mnn.com/earth-matters/space/stories/…
    – Cool Elf
    Sep 15, 2012 at 16:13

The noun I hear most often to describe cheap junk that is poorly made is crap:

crap n
4. Cheap or shoddy material.

as in

That web site he made for me is pure crap. Nothing in it works right, and it's way too slow.



The noun version of "shoddy":

shod·dy  (shd) adj. shod·di·er, shod·di·est 1. Made of or containing inferior material. 2. a. Of poor quality or craft. b. Rundown; shabby. 3. Dishonest or reprehensible: shoddy business practices. 4. Conspicuously and cheaply imitative. n. pl. shod·dies 2. Something of inferior quality; a cheap imitation. [Origin unknown.] shoddi·ly adv. shoddi·ness n.

  • Only "shoddiness" is a noun among those.
    – user32047
    Dec 19, 2012 at 12:13
  • Downvoter - note edit please Dec 19, 2012 at 12:44
  • @gmcgath: 'shoddy' is a noun: "Worthless material made to look like what is of superior quality; what is worthless and pretentious in art, manufactures, ideas, etc.; the class of persons characterized by the endeavour to pass for something superior to what they really are, with respect to wealth, birth, culture, or refinement. Also (U.S.), a ‘shoddy’ person".
    – JEL
    Jun 7, 2017 at 2:25

How about hack-job? It's a noun but it carries a negative connotation so it might not work if you're looking for something neutral.


contraption, noun (OxfordDictionaries online)

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

  • 1
    What's your source for this definition? In the dictionaries I checked, there is mention that the word is often used scornfully, but there's nothing about it implying "badly made or unsafe".
    – Marthaª
    Dec 20, 2012 at 15:22
  • 1
    We should always try to cite the source of the information as a proof of authenticity and as a helpful pointer to the members. It seems this is from a dictionary or similar source.
    – Kris
    Dec 20, 2012 at 15:22
  • @Marthaª oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/contraption www.memidex.com/appliance+device What might be the "dictionaries" that you've checked?
    – Kris
    Dec 20, 2012 at 15:23

Jugaad From Wikipedia

Jugaad (Hindi: जुगाड़) means a creative idea, a quick, alternative way of solving or fixing problems. Jugaad is very popularly used in India and now used by many others countries too.

Jugaad colloquially means a creative idea, or a quick workaround to get through commercial, logistical, or law issues. As such, the jugaad movement has gathered a community of enthusiasts, believing it to be the proof of Indian bubbling creativity, or a cost-effective way to solve the issues of everyday life.

It seems the idea to manage the situation was taken from jugaad as it is an abstract idea that does not turn into a tangible reality; however, by applying jugaad, the immediate effects of said abstract idea can be felt and seen on the applied object.

The concept of the Jugaad aligns precisely with "a device, solution, or means to an end made impromptu, usually in a sloppy way," without the usually associated negative connotations. Instead, it's a proud product of innovation and 'appropriate technology' that eminently serves its purpose, and that, in an economical way.


'Jerry-rigging' - the gerund form of the verb 'to jerry-rig'.

E.G. The sadistic carpenter had ordered the young boy to fashion a single-mast ship from a single, all-too-thin log of wood within but one day. At the break of dawn the next morning, the cruel taskmaster surveyed his apprentice's frantically-assembled jerry-rigging with a curious mixture of contempt and satisfaction.

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