Definition of simple in US English:


adjectivesimpler, simplest

  • 1Easily understood or done; presenting no difficulty.

    ‘a simple solution’
    ‘camcorders are now so simple to operate’
    • ‘Fingerprints are different: they are simple to use and easily checked.’
    • ‘The order should be expressed in simple terms, easily understood even by those who, like the appellant, are not very bright.’
    • ‘Although this idea is conceptually simple, it presents a large political challenge.’
    • ‘We do need to have legislation written in a more simple and easily understood form.’
    • ‘The stack is not tiring, fun to play, and its simple patterns are easily understood.’
    • ‘The notes are simple and are easily understandable even to a common man.’
    • ‘Who would have ever invented such a complicated way of presenting something so simple?’
    • ‘Why would Hersh write something so easily disproved by simple access to the source document?’
    • ‘It's a solution so simple and elegant it's hard to believe someone hasn't thought of it sooner.’
    • ‘The first five steps are really very simple and can easily avert a potential disaster.’
    • ‘Independence in Europe was not presented in simple constitutionalist terms but in policy-relevant terms.’
    • ‘The rules for surrendering are simple to understand but are deceptively difficult to put into practice.’
    • ‘The brief called for simple solutions, easily adaptable to diverse and complex uses.’
    • ‘The key lies in understanding what causes miliaria and following the simple steps to prevent it.’
    • ‘The language used by the insurance broker should be simple and easily understood by the man on the street.’
    • ‘The solution to all this complexity cannot be more complexity; we must find a more elegant and simple solution.’
    • ‘Present Gabrielle with a simple query and her mouth goes into overdrive.’
    • ‘Mortars are easily transportable and very simple to set up, fire and then dismantle.’
    • ‘The solution is simple - to understand what an angel is looking for and then structure the presentation accordingly.’
    • ‘Unfortunately none of those journalists present raised such a simple question.’
    straightforward, easy, uncomplicated, uninvolved, effortless, painless, manageable, undemanding, unexacting, elementary, child's play, plain sailing, a five-finger exercise, nothing
    clear, plain, straightforward, clearly expressed, intelligible, comprehensible, uncomplicated, understandable, of one syllable, words of one syllable, lucid, coherent, unambiguous, direct, accessible, uninvolved
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    1. 1.1attributive Used to emphasize the fundamental and straightforward nature of something.
      ‘the simple truth’
      • ‘He slid under my guard and kicked me straight through anger into simple depression.’
      • ‘This simple truth lies at the core of the need for fair and rational government regulation of industry.’
      • ‘There are times you have to go and battle, it is as simple and straightforward as that.’
      • ‘The simple truth is that we can't have it all all the time.’
      • ‘At any other time she would have done the exact same, made an excuse as to why she didn't make him apologise, when in truth the reason was quite simple.’
      • ‘But matters pertaining to the Korean peninsula are rarely simple and straightforward.’
      • ‘Very often the information sought could be obtained through a simple telephone call.’
      • ‘The simple truth is, soaps are like a comfy old pair of slippers; warming and familiar, always there for you when you get home from work.’
      • ‘The simple reason for this is that too much emphasis is placed on physical fitness to the detriment of skills and team play.’
      • ‘This looks to me more like a boom driven by very simple fundamentals.’
      • ‘I should not have had to cross the world to discover something as simple and fundamental as this.’
      • ‘The whole thing was shaping up to be a rather simple, straightforward affair.’
      • ‘The reason was simple: If you had somebody on the beach, your boat was defenseless.’
      • ‘The ‘eye’ could not see any of the bombings for the simple reason that tall buildings block it.’
      • ‘All the fundamental paradoxes are true for one simple reason: they are truths.’
      • ‘Why in the world could not the Senate agree to that rather straightforward, simple statement?’
      • ‘And no one knows how many children in our schools are there illegally for a simple reason.’
      • ‘The reason for this is simple: mice are not small furry humans.’
      • ‘Why they are kept unwillingly or in my certainty willingly kept from presenting just the simple facts.’
      • ‘Also, we are able to utilise him straight away to prevent simple situations from developing into nightmares.’
      basic, fundamental
      candid, frank, honest, direct, sincere, plain, absolute, unqualified, bald, stark, naked, blunt, unadorned, unvarnished, unembellished
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  • 2Plain, basic, or uncomplicated in form, nature, or design; without much decoration or ornamentation.

    ‘a simple white blouse’
    ‘the house is furnished in a simple country style’
    • ‘This can be seen in stainless steel or brushed aluminium in uncomplicated, unadorned and simple shapes.’
    • ‘It was a simple plain white envelope with Yoshiki written in gold on the front.’
    • ‘It was a ship of classic, simple design, like a flattened salmon, twenty yards long, very clean, very sleek.’
    • ‘But the move from simple designs to the elaborate portraits was a long process.’
    • ‘True to its period, it has a simple design and is built of stone, with most of the house covered in gleaming white harling.’
    • ‘The entire layout is extremely basic and simple, designed to allow gamers to get in and out quickly.’
    • ‘The simple white walls and clean lines of the store, he says, have the effect of allowing you to see the products clearly.’
    • ‘It's a nice, simple site design and the posts are pithy and interesting.’
    • ‘The black suit he was wearing was simple but enough to emphasize his lean body.’
    • ‘All furniture forms were plain in design with simple or no surface decoration.’
    • ‘The simple design means assembly at the Romanian plant is done almost entirely without robots.’
    • ‘Dressed in a simple and austere white, the students filled the auditorium with their stirring songs.’
    • ‘Cabin design is simple and modern, and finished in good quality materials.’
    • ‘In fact, until recently, it has long been considered that the greenback dollar was a defective note, so simple in design that it was easy to fake.’
    • ‘The kitchen and bathroom are stark white, very simple and linear, but it creates a nice balance.’
    • ‘The dashboard is clean and simple in design, with all the instruments in a single binnacle directly in front of the driver.’
    • ‘The pale yellow dress she wore was simple enough, a straight cut with a laced up back and only one shoulder strap.’
    • ‘Inside the box was a band of white gold, a plain, simple band, with a single, simply cut diamond on it.’
    • ‘The other features a modern look with simple designs in black white and silver.’
    • ‘Learn how to create a cross between a quilt and a pillow using simple patchwork designs.’
    plain, unadorned, undecorated, unembellished, unornamented, without ornament, without ornamentation, unelaborate, unpretentious, unostentatious, unfussy, no-nonsense, basic, modest, unsophisticated, penny plain, without frills, honest, homely, homespun, everyday, workaday
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    1. 2.1 Humble and unpretentious.
      ‘a quiet unassuming man with simple tastes’
      • ‘Edward was a quiet, honest, simple American who had always protested his innocence.’
      • ‘These leaders, unlike Jesus, who was humble and simple, are the affluent lot.’
      • ‘For despite the artist's romantic wishful thinking, his rustic Bretons were no simple peasants.’
      • ‘He was a quiet unassuming man with simple tastes and was dedicated to his greyhounds and track.’
      • ‘We're quiet, simple folk here, show some respect will you?’
      • ‘The voice is unaffectedly simple, warm and kind although sometimes a little sad.’
      • ‘There is something mysterious about the depiction of a simple, humble home.’
      • ‘Life at the monastery is simple, with a handful of monks beginning each day with prayers and meditation.’
      • ‘She was so simple and unpretentious that most people who met her had no idea of the depth of her inner life.’
      • ‘Living in the shadow of Newgate Prison, Sweeney Todd tries to carve out a quiet and simple life as a barber.’
      • ‘Mole is a creature of great loyalty and peace, satisfied to live a quiet and simple life.’
      • ‘Like the movie they are associated with, the trio too is unassuming, down-to-earth and simple.’
      • ‘Despite their riches, the inhabitants of Madhapura are unassuming and lead a simple lifestyle.’
      • ‘It is a small, intimate and humble place where a simple congregation once gathered for spiritual sustenance.’
      • ‘Live a simple and a temperate life, that you may give all your powers to your profession.’
      • ‘He has called on a simple and humble life, following the traditions of the Franciscan Order.’
      • ‘They lived a similar humble and simple life, before both being assassinated by the British Royal Family.’
      unpretentious, unsophisticated, ordinary, unaffected, unassuming, natural, honest-to-goodness, modest, homely, wholesome, humble, quiet, lowly, rustic
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  • 3Composed of a single element; not compound.

    • ‘That way you can upgrade your patient's break from a simple to a compound fracture and claim more money from the insurance company.’
    • ‘A lively dance; the music from Shakespeare's time is often in simple rather than compound metre.’
    non-compound, non-complex, uncompounded, uncombined, unmixed, unblended, unalloyed, pure, basic, single, elementary, fundamental
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    1. 3.1Mathematics Denoting a group that has no proper normal subgroup.
      • ‘He searched for finite simple groups and in an 1892 paper he showed that all simple groups up to order 200 are already known.’
      • ‘A finite sporadic simple group is a finite simple group which is not a member of one of the standard infinite families.’
      • ‘Leech is, however, best known for the Leech lattice which gives rise to three sporadic simple groups.’
      • ‘Galois then shows that the non-abelian simple group of smallest order has order 60.’
      • ‘In it he determined the minimal simple finite groups, this is to say, the simple groups whose proper subgroups are solvable.’
    2. 3.2Botany (of a leaf or stem) not divided or branched.
      • ‘This axis comprised successive nodes, each having a simple leaf, separated by internodes of variable length.’
    3. 3.3 (of a lens, microscope, etc.) consisting of a single lens or component.
      • ‘The biaxial scanning mechanism and the simple objective lenses are the key features.’
      • ‘He used a simple microscope, although compound microscopes were available at the time.’
      • ‘Photograph by Allan Mills of a rectangular grid of lines on a white board, taken using a simple convex lens.’
      • ‘Petzval produced an achromatic portrait lens that was vastly superior to the simple meniscus lens then in use.’
      • ‘Painters like Vermeer traced images from convex mirrors and simple lenses - thus the hand in the camera.’
    4. 3.4 (in English grammar) denoting a tense formed without an auxiliary, e.g., sang as opposed to was singing.
      • ‘Traditionally, the simple future tense is will or shall followed by the infinitive: will follow.’
    5. 3.5 (of interest) payable on the sum loaned only.
      Compare with compound
      • ‘They gave her simple interest on it and they absolved her of her liability for the occupation rent.’
      • ‘The interest rolls up in the units you buy, so you actually get capital gain on your units rather than simple interest.’
      • ‘The lender would then sue and only be entitled to simple interest on the judgment.’
      • ‘Equity awarded simple interest at a time when courts of law had no right under common law or statute to award any interest.’
      • ‘Bankers charged simple interest, with interest capitalised at intervals.’
  • 4Of low or abnormally low intelligence.

    • ‘Marx always emphasised that we can learn more from intelligent conservatives than from simple liberals.’


  • A medicinal herb, or a medicine made from one.

    ‘the gatherers of simples’
    • ‘The poetic and medical arts - not disease - flourish in gardens: their cool shade and sacred laurel trees give shelter to Apollo's inspirational Muses, and their plants furnish powerful pharmaceutical simples to combat disease.’
    • ‘The woodlands were a reservoir of fuel; they were a larder of delicacies; a medicine chest of simples and cures.’
    • ‘By all means, start by sampling some simples and get familiar with the various teas.’
    • ‘Tia Aria showed me the garden where herbs medicinal and herbs amatory went into the making of her famous simples.’
    • ‘Won't you come back to Wittenberg and heal the sick with your drugs and simples as you did before?’


  • Used to convey that something is very straightforward.

    ‘I don't overanalyze. I listen, I like, I buy. Simple!’
    • ‘To grow old with him and see the kids grow old and have their lives, that's all I want. Simple.’
    • ‘If it's not legal for you to get something, you don't get it. Simple.’
    • ‘If the price is reduced, I buy more. Simple.’
    • ‘You'll notice my daily numbers and annual averages don't match. Simple — this site took three months to really get rolling.’
    • ‘They provide us with good service and they deserve to get paid for it. Simple!’
    • ‘They play because they love the game. Simple.’
    • ‘It's your newsletter, so send in your caving news — simple!’
    • ‘People often ask what they can do to help out around here. Simple! Get involved in the forum.’
    • ‘I will stop writing about it if you stop doing it. Simple.’
    • ‘If he closes only half the quangos, then statistically, although he'll half upset both quango likers and haters, he stands the best chance of maximising votes — simple!’


Middle English: from Old French, from Latin simplus. The noun sense (mid 16th century) originally referred to a medicine made from one constituent, especially from one plant.