Difference Between Complicated & Complex

Can you distinguish between the difficulty levels of sending a rocket to Mars and educating children in school? What about the task of a brain surgeon removing a tumor from a patient’s brain – is it complex or complicated? Although these two words have similarities, they carry different meanings and are used differently.


We often describe something as complicated when it is hard to understand. A math problem or a game with too many rules can be complicated because they are difficult to grasp. Complicated is an adjective used to describe things or tools with many interconnected parts. Medical conditions can also be referred to as complicated, with the various symptoms being called complications. Human emotions can sometimes be complicated, too, when they are difficult to understand or explain.


Complex is an adjective that indicates that something is intricate and hard to understand. It is commonly used to describe complex personalities, situations, compounds, or molecules. The word complex is often associated with technical things, buildings, and structures rather than social relationships.

A problem is considered complex when it has interrelated, interdependent parts with constantly changing and unpredictable features. For example, terrorism is a complex problem linked to numerous factors such as hatred, religious fundamentalism, racial discrimination, poverty, and ignorance.

Another way to view something as complex is when it functions as a whole and is more than just the sum of its parts. All life forms in nature can be considered complex in this sense.

Key Takeaways

  • Complex and complicated are near synonyms and are used almost interchangeably, but complex is more commonly used in science and math while complicated is more often used in social relationships.
  • Medical conditions can be described as complicated, with their symptoms referred to as complications.
  • Complex is used when something has many interrelated parts that function as a whole, while complicated refers to something that is intricate and difficult to understand.
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard is an accomplished writer with expertise in creating engaging articles and content across various platforms. His dedication to research and crafting high-quality content has led to over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience. In his personal life, Gil enjoys connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. His curiosity and eagerness to learn from others fuel his passion for communication. He believes that engaging with strangers can be both enlightening and enjoyable, making it easier to strike up conversations and expand one's horizons.


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