I'm looking specifically for the meaning in this sentence:

But I would say the biggest advantage of Optional syntax in Java isn't in readability: the advantage is its idiot-proof-ness.

migrated from english.stackexchange.com Aug 7 '14 at 14:53

This question came from our site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts.

  • 4
    Idiot-proof adj. Slang: Made or designed to be used or operated with very little risk of breakage or failure: "These point-and-shoot cameras are almost idiot-proof" (Donald H. Dunn). – user5267 Aug 7 '14 at 14:25
  • 4
    "If you make something idiot proof, someone will just make a better idiot." – Dan Bron Aug 7 '14 at 14:50
  • ... so idiot-proof-ness means sturdiness/toughness in the sense of resistance to (i.e., ability to resist or avoid) bad outcomes from improper use. – Scott Aug 7 '14 at 14:52
  • 2
    Idiot-proof is essentially the same word as foolproof, leading to the line, "It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious." which is sometimes considered to be one of Murphy's Laws. (Thanks, @Dan, for reminding me of this.) – Scott Aug 7 '14 at 15:00

The suffix -proof added to something means "can't be harmed by"

If it's waterproof it can't be harmed by water. If it's fireproof it can't be harmed by fire. If it's idiot-proof it can't be harmed by idiots.

The suffix -ness is used to reference the quality or characteristic of being something. If I talk about something's "fireproof-ness" I'm talking about the thing's quality of being fireproof.

Idiot-proof-ness therefore refers to a thing's quality or characteristic of being incapable of being harmed by an idiot.

In this specific case it's saying Java's Optional syntax is hard to mess up.

  • "-ness" turns an adjective into a noun. – Dangph Aug 8 '14 at 11:12
  • 2
    It should be noted that the "word" idiot-proof-ness was probably written somewhat humorously: It's such a cobbled together non-word that it's amusing. But the point still gets across to the reader. – pabo Aug 9 '14 at 7:38

"Idiot-proof-ness" pretty much means people that are idiots can't mess up with the said object.

"The new phones are equipped with metal coating and are completely idiot-proof".

This shows that the new phones have metal coating and idiots will not be able to be mess up with it (drop it).


It's saying that the object in question has a characteristic such that "it's so easy even an idiot will not fail when using it"

It has nothing to do with a capability of not breaking when tampered with by an idiot, by the way


A possibly synonym for idiot-proofness that is often used in programming is robustness.


  • Some citations or examples to show the usage of robustness as your choice would help substantiate your answer. – Manish Giri Aug 9 '14 at 16:29
  • Thanks for that, I realize most people probably don't use it as much as I do. – Spaceman Spiff Aug 9 '14 at 16:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy