Pop Culture dictionary



What does complexifier mean?

I’m working on a boat this week, but a big complexifier is that I can’t swim!

A complexifier, according to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, is a fancy way of referring to a complicating factor, or something that makes a situation more complex.

Related words

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Where does complexifier come from?

Reuters / Financial Express

Complexifier was launched into the limelight on February 7, 2019, when Jeff Bezos, the wealthiest person in the world and the head of Amazon and The Washington Post, wrote a blog post accusing the tabloid National Enquirer of blackmail:

“Here’s a piece of context: My ownership of the Washington Post is a complexifier for me. It’s unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy.”

The National Enquirer allegedly threatened to publish embarrassing photographs of Bezos and his girlfriend (including dick pics), unless The Washington Post stopped its investigative reporting into collusion between President Donald Trump and foreign political powers.

While Bezos’s blackmail revelations were shocking and scandalous, many people were equally captivated by his use of this unusual word complexifier. Many social media users and professional journalists wondered if complexifier was even a valid term, expressing dismay that Bezos would invent such a silly word.

The New York Times noted that complexifier is a French verb meaning “to complicate” or “make more complex,” but as lexicographer Ben Zimmer explained for The Wall Street Journal: “…though you won’t find “complexifier” in any major English dictionary, the word’s meaning can nonetheless be gleaned from its building blocks. If circumstances become complex, they are ‘complexified,’ and if something adds to the complexity of a situation, it is a ‘complexifier.'”

Compare complexifier to intensifier (something that intensifies) or simplifier (something that simplifies). Complexifier is modeled on such words which feature the -ify/-fy, a suffix meaning “to make” or “render.”

Zimmer found notable instances of complexifier in 1970 and 1992 in government contexts.

Examples of complexifier

Jeff Bezos is a complexifier for David Pecker — and it won’t end well.
@maureendowd, February 2019  
How Brett Kavanaugh and the ‘complexifier’ of race help Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax
Joan Vennochi, The Boston Globe (headline), February 2019
Having three teenagers at home is a complexifier for me. What’s a complexifier for you?
@peterlattman, February 2019

Who uses complexifier?

Not long after Bezos brought the odd word to our attention, complexifier was used by journalists in news stories about him as well as other recent political scandals involving complicating factors.

Complexifier also gained steam on social media as people joked about how silly it sounded and started using the word to describe a variety of absurdities.

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This is not meant to be a formal definition of complexifier like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of complexifier that will help our users expand their word mastery.