'Tis A Gift To Be Simple: Words For National Simplicity Day

The mathematician-philosopher Alfred North Whitehead famously said "Seek simplicity, and distrust it." Simply put, this list provides the vocabulary to describe anything from an easy job to an elegantly minimal interior design.

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definitions & notes only words
  1. austere
    severely simple
    The austere appearance of the Burren landscape belies its rich diversity.
    There's simple, and then there's austere: something stripped of decoration or any hint of luxury, like a room with just a mattress on the floor and bare walls. Not a prison cell, though: austere doesn't connote punishment, but either hard times or a conscious choice to make do with little.
  2. ease
    freedom from difficulty or hardship or effort
    This is mostly because of the ease of use that these gadgets offer.
    Ease comes from the Old French aise, meaning "opportunity" or "freedom." The notion of freedom carried over into English, specifically freedom from pain, discomfort, or difficulty. We also use the opposite French term, malaise, as a synonym for uneasy: a feeling of discomfort or lack of well-being.
  3. elementary
    easy and not involved or complicated
    And he ended with a list of elementary promises.
    Elements are the building blocks of the universe. As such, they're the basis for everything we see and do. So something elementary is foundational, or entry-level: basic.
  4. facile
    arrived at without due care or effort; lacking depth
    Not only was this a facile attempt at armchair activism, it actively disrupted the hashtag #blacklivesmatter, which protesters, reporters and activists were using to collate news about police violence against protesters.
    The Latin facilis, meaning "easy," became the French facile. In English, though, it has a negative meaning, referring to something done quickly or carelessly.
  5. humble
    marked by meekness or modesty; not arrogant or prideful
    The Season 12 alumna emerged victorious by creatively elevating humble Asian dishes to Michelin-star status.
    Humus is Latin for "ground" or "earth," and we still use it in English to refer to a particular type of nutrient-rich soil. Based on that root, humilem means "low," "lowly," or "insignificant;" it's where we get humiliate. Humble comes from the same source, and refers to a person who is by nature meek and modest, or one who has been brought down by shame, or a lifestyle or abode that lacks luxury of any sort.
  6. modest
    limited in size or scope
    The truest bonds are forged in closer, more modest quarters, and sometimes the truest movies.
    A number of the words on this list can be applied to people as well as things, ideas, or spaces. Modest comes from the Latin modestus, meaning "unassuming," "reserved," or "well-behaved," and it still carries those meanings when applied to a person. If you're talking about a budget, though, or an apartment, then modest describes a fairly low number or a small, functional dwelling.
  7. natural
    unprocessed or manufactured using simple processes
    An over-ripe banana is a parent’s best friend, its concentrated natural sugars sweetening everything from breakfast to pudding.
  8. plain
    The 28-year-old model took to Twitter on Tuesday to express her disdain for the #BlackOutTuesday trend on social media in which people post a simple, plain black square.
    Plain comes from the Latin planum, meaning a flat surface, which is why the huge grasslands of the Midwest are called the Great Plains. Something unadorned, unremarkable, or featureless is plain.
  9. purity
    being undiluted or unmixed with extraneous material
    It’s another moment of human purity bulldozed by television.
    Like natural, pure refers to things being at their best in their simplest state: the way they occur in nature.
  10. simple
    having few parts; not complex or complicated or involved
    This very simple recipe is just 15 minutes in the making – much quicker than your average fruit jam – and flavoured with vanilla, lime and dark rum.
    In Latin, simplex means "alone," "plain," or "basic." That became simple in French, which English borrowed.
  11. simplicity
    the quality of being uncomplicated
    This version would be simplicity itself: thin slices of toasted day-old baguette or ciabatta, rubbed with garlic, smeared with a dab of chopped sun-dried tomato and topped with a bit of anchovy.
  12. simplistic
    characterized by extreme and misleading lack of complexity
    Set in a series of underwater worlds, there is nothing simplistic about the game design.
    What a difference a suffix makes! Where simple and simplicity both usually have positive connotations, simplistic refers to something that's so dumbed down or incomplete that it's useless. It's quite similar to facile, seen above.
  13. spare
    lacking embellishment or ornamentation
    Such spare, piercing verses are not reserved for poets of the distant past, however.
    Like austere, above, spare in this sense refers to something — often an interior — with few furnishings or decorations. So a spare room can mean one of two things: either a guest bedroom, where spare means "extra," or a lightly furnished and minimally decorated space.
  14. spartan
    marked by simplicity, frugality, or self-denial
    On a recent Sunday, he offered services from his spartan apartment in the Bronx via live stream.
    Sparta is a city in Greece. Spartan warriors were famous for their toughness and ability to make do with very little. So a life defined by discipline and a lack of luxury or comfort can be called spartan, as can a living space like the one described up top in the note for austere.
Created on June 19, 2020 (updated June 26, 2020)

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