View synonyms for bare bones

bare bones

plural noun

  1. the irreducible minimum; the most essential components:

    Reduce this report to its bare bones. There is nothing left of the town but the bare bones—a couple of stores, a church, and a few houses.



  1. basic or simple; no-frills
“Collins English Dictionary — Complete & Unabridged” 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

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Other Words From

  • bare-bones adjective
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Word History and Origins

Origin of bare bones1

First recorded in 1910–15
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Idioms and Phrases

The mere essentials or plain, unadorned framework of something, as in This outline gives just the bare bones of the story; details will come later . This phrase transfers the naked skeleton of a body to figurative use. [c. 1900]
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Example Sentences

This year, a bare-bones welfare program will continue into the New Year without being updated.

Maybe, just maybe he'd be able to get the message across if he stripped it down to its bare bones.

The bare bones of an already-anemic effort to fight the epidemic in West Africa that is threatening to destroy the entire region.

As TechCrunch pointed out, the brilliance in its bare bones appeal could reach a worth of one billion dollars.

He was getting only the bare bones, none of the rich details that make a book sing.

Here in a few paragraphs are the bare bones of the plan described in eighty of Henry James's pages.

A lot of speculation necessarily clothed the bare bones of Jones' information.

Hiawatha looked on wistfully to see them eat till they were fully satisfied, and they left him nothing but the bare bones.

It was the bare bones of this old earth, as sombre and foreboding as any ruin of granite under the wrack of the bleak north.

I have lived to see the people who go into the desert for adventure, and whose bare bones are all any man looks on again!


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More About Bare Bones

What does bare bones mean?

The bare bones is the absolute minimum, the plain essential elements or facts, or the most basic framework of something.

Bare often means uncovered, but in this case it means unadorned, plain, or scarcely or just sufficient. Bare bones is often used to refer to something that only includes its essential parts and nothing else.

The adjective form bare-bones means most basic and without any frills, as in My apartment is pretty bare-bones, with just a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchenette. 

Example: After the seniors graduate, the team will be left with only the bare bones of a squad, so they’ll need to recruit some more members.

Where does bare bones come from?

Shakespeare used the term bare bone to refer to a skinny person in 1598, but the first records of bare bones referring to the bare essentials come from about 300 years later. The phrase is a reference to the skeleton as the essential framework of the body.

Bare bones can mean “the bare minimum,” as in With only the bare bones to work with, we’ll essentially have to start from scratch. It often refers to the essential components or facts, as in Don’t go into detail—just give me the bare bones. It can also mean “the basic framework,” as in You have the bare bones of a plan here, but it needs to be fleshed out. If a house is stripped to its bare bones, it usually means only the frame and foundation are left intact.

The adjective bare-bones is typically applied to things in their most basic or essential state, with nothing added, as in We need to operate with a bare-bones budget—we don’t have the money for anything other than the necessities.

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What are some synonyms for bare bones?

What are some synonyms for bare-bones?

What are some words that share a root or word element with bare bones

What are some words that often get used in discussing bare bones?


How is bare bones used in real life?

Bare bones is often used to refer to things that should or will eventually have more elements. These are most often negative situations, but the term can be used positively, too—a bare-bones approach to performing a task might be a welcome change from an overly complex method.



Try using bare bones!

Is bare bones used correctly in the following sentence?

I removed parts from the machine until only the bare bones were left.

Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.