Is there a word which describes an event which seems to be ordinary and trivial at surface however it is of vital importance and have significant effects underneath?

For example consider the falling of an apple from a tree. This seems to be very ordinary and not important; however, sir Issac Newton discovered the very important law of gravity out of it. Thanks in advance for any suggestions

  • Note that an event might be classified as such only a posteriori. A couple of suggestions— potent, ramifying, seminal, though I see that these are not exactly what your question is about. Nov 28, 2017 at 23:13
  • 3
    Do you have a word for it in your first language? I think in English they use a and adverb to convey your intention. Something like "Apparently trivial" or "Ostensibly trivial".
    – Cardinal
    Nov 29, 2017 at 2:18
  • +1 @Cardinal. I was thinking "ostensibly/facially banal".
    – N. Presley
    Dec 5, 2017 at 1:43
  • I doubt that English has 'boiled it down' to a single word, though an obscure loan-word would not be surprising. Depending on the type of event or choice of phrasing, "unexpectedly" might fit with the adjectives already suggested by Mv Log, as well as profound, influential, formative). From the other angle (banal, humdrum, pedestrian, mundane, commonplace), be careful to avoid the noted problem of clarity if you consider using deceptively as the adverb. Seemingly is another alternative to Cardinal's suggestions.
    – N. Presley
    Dec 5, 2017 at 1:59
  • To elaborate: 'deceptively' is flexible enough to refer either to the circumstantial 'ordinariness' or to the extended/underlying significance, but because of that flexibility it requires more careful context to be clear "which way" it is meant. It could be ironic that the superficial aspect of the event is/was dismissed as unimportant, but some surrounding context is necessary for the scope of the irony to be conveyed by #3 of the linked definitions: "Poignantly contrary to what was expected or intended."
    – N. Presley
    Dec 5, 2017 at 2:10

3 Answers 3

  • inappreciable - too small or insignificant to be valued or perceived.

This word might be the adjective you're looking for.

This word might also fit your idea.

  • superficial - concerned only with the obvious or apparent; presenting only an appearance without substance or significance; implies a concern only with surface aspects or obvious features.

This word is the closest I could find.

In other cases it is better to use the phrase:

  • to seem insignificant at first sight/glance
  • apparently unimportant event
  • seemingly unimportant event
  • seemingly uneventful event [could work at times]

Which points to an underlying importance of the event.


Seemingly mundane but pivotal moment.

How about 'a pivotal moment'? This expresses that the event caused an important event - that the moment is in fact a fulcrum on which the future, levers.

If you want to say that such a moment was unacknowledged at the time, you could describe it as a 'seemingly mundane but pivotal moment'.

Example: the apple falling from the tree was a seemingly mundane but pivotal moment that caused Newton to discover gravity.

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