Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Of, relating to, or being a contrivance that brings about by complicated means what apparently could have been accomplished simply.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. United States cartoonist who drew intricate diagrams of very complicated and impractical contraptions that accomplished little or nothing (1883-1970)

Etymologies

After Reuben Lucius ("Rube”) Goldberg (1883-1970), American cartoonist noted for his intricate diagrams of such contrivances.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

  • Such overly complex contraptions have become known as Rube Goldberg devices and every year there are even contests held in his honor where people construct machines with go through a myriad of often unrelated steps to do simple tasks such as turning on a light switch.

    Canada Free Press

  • The name Rube Goldberg is synonymous with machines that perform the simplest of everyday tasks in a complex and indirect manner-in fact, it is listed in the dictionary as an adjective with such a definition.

    mental_floss Blog

  • Also, Purdue University holds an annual national competition called the "Rube Goldberg Machine Contest."

    The Rube Under the Bed

  • The whole project is delightfully Rube Goldberg, which is of course why we love it.

    Turntable Built From Motorbike Parts | Impact Lab

  • Syyn's first official project was to help build the complex series of chain reactions that performed simple tasks -- known as a Rube Goldberg machine after the legendary cartoonist who devised the concept -- at the heart of indie rock band OK Go's "This Too Shall Pass" video.

    Boing Boing

  • (aka MegaRan) will perform, with interactive installations from Andreas Stadler and Syyn Labs, the engineering whiz kids behind the OK Go 'Rube Goldberg'-inspired music video.

    Boing Boing

  • Goldberg is best known for a series of popular cartoons he created depicting complex devices that perform simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways - now known as Rube Goldberg machines.

    Denver Post: News: Breaking: Local

  • The "Rube Goldberg" monstrosity of a Bill that will be enacted will be portrayed as "reform".

    Printing: The U.S. is at a Critical Juncture

  • What kind of Rube Goldberg contraption is this thing going to be?

    CNN Transcript Jul 19, 2009

  • He had transformed his aged Chevy Caprice into a kind of Rube Goldberg killing machine by cutting a hole in the trunk to help create a hidden sniper's perch.

    Descent Into Evil

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