[ oh-ver-jen-er-uh-luh-zey-shuhn ]
/ ˌoʊ vərˌdʒɛn ər ə ləˈzeɪ ʃən /
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the act or process of overgeneralizing.
the result of overgeneralizing.
Linguistics. (in language acquisition) the process of extending the application of a rule to items that are excluded from it in the language norm, as when a child uses the regular past tense verb ending -ed of forms like I walked to produce forms like *I goed or *I rided.
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Origin of overgeneralization

First recorded in 1945–50; over- + generalization

Words nearby overgeneralization

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does overgeneralization mean?

Overgeneralization is the act of drawing conclusions that are too broad because they exceed what could be logically concluded from the available information. The word can also be used to refer to an instance when such an overly broad conclusion has been made.

Overgeneralization is frequently used in everyday speech, but it can also be used in logic, linguistics, psychology, or other fields of research to mean something a little bit more specific relating to the particular field. Generalization is similar, but it is typically used when drawing such a conclusion is considered appropriately practical and not overly broad.

Example: Unfortunately, there is a lot of overgeneralization in the report, which claims that all hospitals lack evacuation plans, when in fact only a small number of hospitals were studied.

Where does overgeneralization come from?

Overgeneralization is a somewhat recent addition to English, but its main root is much older. General is first recorded around 1200 and derives from the Latin generālis, meaning “generic” or “relating to a whole class.” The prefix over- adds the sense of “over the limit” or “too much.”

Overgeneralization is commonly used as a noun referring to a situation when someone tries to apply a conclusion too broadly—like taking one difficult science class and saying “all science classes are super hard.” In logic and rhetoric, overgeneralization is used as another name for the hasty generalization fallacy, which involves making a claim that isn’t supported by enough evidence.

Overgeneralization can also be used more narrowly. In linguistics, overgeneralization is used as a name for a specific stage of language acquisition in which children apply a grammatical rule (like forming past tense verbs by adding -ed) too widely (resulting in nonwords like eated). In psychology, overgeneralization describes a situation in which a person takes just one or just a few incidents and presumes the world works a certain way based on those few incidents.

All of these different academic senses share the same general idea with the common meaning of overgeneralization: “not enough information; too broad a conclusion.”

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms of overgeneralization?

What are some words that share a root or word element with overgeneralization?

What are some words that often get used in discussing overgeneralization?

How is overgeneralization used in real life?

Overgeneralization is very common, and we like to call it out when we read it or hear it in news reports, social media posts, and everyday conversation.



Try using overgeneralization!

Which of the following sentences uses overgeneralization correctly?

A. It’s an overgeneralization to eat that many carbs.
B. Saying that all accountants are crooked just because you got cheated by one is an overgeneralization.
C. Our survey shows that 56 percent of viewers liked the movie, which is an overgeneralization.
D. All of the above.