How to say "a not so important small question" concisely?

For example, if I am studying math, and there's a terminology that looks wierd. Its nomenclature gradually becomes a preoccupation to me. I just want to know the reason of this name. However, this has nothing to do with my serious study of math. Hence, it is "a small and not so important" yet curious question to me.

  • How do you want to use it in a sentence? If you want a noun-phrase you might consider, "tangential question" but if you just want to convey this idea in some form, you might say, "Out of curiosity, why did they call it that?"
    – Jim
    Commented Jan 27, 2014 at 6:52
  • You may prefer telling by the way which means you are not that concern but concerned!
    – Maulik V
    Commented Jan 27, 2014 at 7:23
  • Thanks for your replies. I actually want to know a noun, phrase or adjective to describe such "a not so important small question".
    – xiaohuamao
    Commented Jan 27, 2014 at 7:40
  • 2
    For 'not so important' you can go with "Trivial". But it refers to something "related but not so important" and since your question is not related to your main objective, you can go with "unrelated": not related or linked.
    – kmdhrm
    Commented Jan 27, 2014 at 8:04
  • In what sense is the question 'small'? Is it a short question? Do you expect a short reply? Is it just small in terms of importance but could involve a lot of explanation?
    – DCShannon
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 1:04

5 Answers 5


A single noun for this would be minutia (plural: minutiae). It's of Latin origin, and is used to describe trivial details (as Dipak suggests, trivial is a good adjective to use here) or minor details. None of these three terms explicitly refers to questions, but I would say that they sound natural in this instance.

I have experienced what you describe many times, especially when studying! A concise way to describe it would be "getting bogged down in(/with) the details". The phrase implies that the details are relatively minor/trivial, because they are preventing you from achieving something more important, but you could say "I'm trying to study this problem, but I keep getting bogged down with minutiae"


You can precede your question with this:

I'm curious, {question}?

When you say that you are curious, it removes the requirement for relevance to the current topic.

It is often said as a way of side-tracking for a short moment to clarify a trivial detail; in order to clear the mind of 'preoccupation' as you say.


I believe the answer your are seeking is,

to ask a trivial question


Trivial means there is a simple obvious answer. A good word with which to preface the question would be "incidentally". You could describe the question as "incidental".


A single noun for this might be curiosum: A possibly unimportant point of interest.

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