Complicated vs. Complex

Let’s delve into the nuanced distinction between complicated and complex. While these terms might initially appear interchangeable, it’s crucial to discern their subtle differences.

To establish a foundation, let’s turn to the definitions provided by the Merriam-Webster dictionary:



  • Composed of two or more parts
  • Hard to separate, analyze, or solve


  • Consisting of parts intricately combined
  • Difficult to analyze, understand, or explain

At first glance, these definitions seem closely related, but it’s important to emphasize a significant difference. In contrast to complexity, complication implies difficulty in understanding. Complex problems, on the other hand, aren’t necessarily hard to understand or explain; rather, they highlight the challenge of finding a solution.


For a programmer, the guiding principle should always be to seek the simplest and most straightforward solution for a problem, regardless of its inherent complexity. It’s crucial to recognize that a complex problem does not warrant or demand a complicated solution.


The term “complicated” finds its most fitting application when describing code that could benefit from a more human-readable approach. While anyone can write code understandable to a computer, skilled programmers distinguish themselves by crafting code that is easily comprehensible to fellow humans.