adjective, sim·pler, sim·plest.


Origin of simple

1175–1225; (adj.) Middle English < Old French < Late Latin simplus simple, Latin (in simpla pecunia simple fee or sum), equivalent to sim- one (see simplex) + -plus, as in duplus duple, double (see -fold); cognate with Greek háplos (see haplo-); (noun) Middle English: commoner, derivative of the adj.
Related formssim·ple·ness, nouno·ver·sim·ple, adjectiveo·ver·sim·ple·ness, nouno·ver·sim·p·ly, adverbsub·sim·ple, adjectiveul·tra·sim·ple, adjectiveun·sim·ple, adjectiveun·sim·ple·ness, nounun·sim·p·ly, adverb
Can be confusedsimple simplified simplistic (see confusables note at simplistic)

Synonym study

10. See homely.

Synonyms for simple

Confusables note Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for simple

Contemporary Examples of simple

Historical Examples of simple

  • After all, it was not a simple thing to put Bill Dozier off the trail.

  • His program was as simple as the curriculum of a Persian youth.

  • Until the furies got hold of him he was a simple soul, content with simple things.


    William J. Locke

  • I see myself a singer of simple songs, a laureate of the under-dog.

    Ballads of a Bohemian

    Robert W. Service

  • Two against three would be a simple thing, as long as he was one of the two.

British Dictionary definitions for simple



not involved or complicated; easy to understand or doa simple problem
plain; unadorneda simple dress
consisting of one element or part only; not combined or complexa simple mechanism
unaffected or unpretentiousalthough he became famous, he remained a simple and well-liked man
not guileful; sincere; frankher simple explanation was readily accepted
of humble condition or rankthe peasant was of simple birth
weak in intelligence; feeble-minded
(prenominal) without additions or modifications; merethe witness told the simple truth
(prenomina) ordinary or straightforwarda simple case of mumps
chem (of a substance or material) consisting of only one chemical compound rather than a mixture of compounds
  1. (of a fraction) containing only integers
  2. (of an equation) containing variables to the first power only; linear
  3. (of a root of an equation) occurring only once; not multiple
  1. not divided into partsa simple leaf; a simple eye
  2. formed from only one ovarysimple fruit
music relating to or denoting a time where the number of beats per bar may be two, three, or four

noun archaic

a simpleton; fool
a plant, esp a herbaceous plant, having medicinal properties
Derived Formssimpleness, noun

Word Origin for simple

C13: via Old French from Latin simplex plain
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

Word Origin and History for simple

c.1200, "free from duplicity, upright, guileless; blameless, innocently harmless," also "ignorant, uneducated; unsophisticated; simple-minded, foolish," from Old French simple (12c.) "plain, decent; friendly, sweet; naive, foolish, stupid," hence "wretched, miserable," from Latin simplus, variant of simplex "simple, uncompounded," literally "onefold" (see simplex). Sense of "free from pride, humble, meek" is mid-13c. As "consisting of only one substance or ingredient" (opposite of composite or compounded) it dates from late 14c.; as "easily done" (opposite of complicated) it dates from late 15c.

From mid-14c. as "unqualified; mere; sheer;" also "clear, straightforward; easily understood." From late 14c. as "single, individual; whole." From late 14c. of clothing, etc., "modest, plain, unadorned," and of food, "plain, not sumptuous." In medicine, of fractures, etc., "lacking complications," late 14c. As a law term, "lacking additional legal stipulations, unlimited," from mid-14c.

In Middle English with wider senses than recently, e.g. "inadequate, insufficient; weak, feeble; mere; few; sad, downcast; mournful; of little value; low in price; impoverished, destitute;" of hair, "straight, not curly." As noun, "an innocent or a guileless person; a humble or modest person" (late 14c.), also "an uncompounded substance." From c.1500 as "ignorant people."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with simple


see pure and simple.

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