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overgeneralize

[ oh-ver-jen-er-uh-lahyz ]
/ ˌoʊ vərˈdʒɛn ər əˌlaɪz /
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verb (used with or without object), o·ver·gen·er·al·ized, o·ver·gen·er·al·iz·ing.
to generalize beyond appropriate or justified limits.
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Also especially British, o·ver·gen·er·al·ise .

Origin of overgeneralize

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

VOCAB BUILDER

What does overgeneralize mean?

To overgeneralize is to draw conclusions that are too broad because they exceed what could be logically concluded from the available information.

Overgeneralize comes from generalize, meaning to draw broad conclusions. Overgeneralizing is generalizing too much or in a way that leads to faulty conclusions.

The noun form of overgeneralize is overgeneralization, which refers to the act of overgeneralizing or an instance of doing so.

The word overgeneralize 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.

Example: The authors are overgeneralizing when they claim that all hospitals lack evacuation plans, since in fact only a small number of hospitals were studied.

Where does overgeneralize come from?

The first records of the word overgeneralize come from the mid-1800s. Generalize is recorded earlier, in the mid-1700s. The base word, general, comes from the Latin generālis, meaning “generic” or “relating to a whole class.” The suffix -ize is used to make generalize a verb that essentially means “to make general.” The prefix over- is used to mean “over the limit” or “too much.”

Overgeneralize typically refers to trying to apply a conclusion too broadly—like taking one difficult science class and saying “all science classes are super hard.” In logic and rhetoric, the word overgeneralize is used in reference to the hasty generalization fallacy, which involves making a claim that isn’t supported by enough evidence.

In linguistics, overgeneralize means to apply a grammatical rule (like forming past tense verbs by adding –ed) too widely (resulting in nonwords like eated), which is often done by children when they’re learning to talk. In psychology, to overgeneralize means to take just one or just a few incidents and presume that the world works a certain way based on those few incidents.

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

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How is overgeneralize used in real life?

People overgeneralize all the time, and the word is almost always used to criticize people for doing it.

 

Try using overgeneralize!

Is overgeneralize used correctly in the following sentence?

When children have a bad experience with a particular food, they tend to overgeneralize and reject that food in any preparation.

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