Glaring errors and patent nonsense: ways of saying that things are obvious

Nora Carol Photography / Moment / GettyImages

by Kate Woodford

One thing that we aim to do on this blog is look at the many different ways we express the same thing in English. This week we’re focusing on words that have the basic meaning of ‘obvious’. As you know, near-synonyms can be different from each other in a number of ways. Many of the synonyms that we will look at here are different because of the things that they usually describe and the words that they are often combined with.

If something is easy to see or recognize, you might describe it as noticeable:

He’s lost a lot of weight – it’s quite noticeable.

There’s been a noticeable improvement in her work this term.

Someone or something that attracts attention because they are very different and draw attention away from what is around them may be described as conspicuous:

I felt a bit conspicuous in my bright red coat.

A number of adjectives mean ‘easily seen or understood’, such as apparent and evident:

Her unhappiness was apparent.

It’s increasingly evident that we have too few staff.

The word plain has a very similar meaning:

His anger was plain to see.

Klara made it very plain that she was fed up with him.

A change or difference that is very obvious is sometimes described as marked:

A full 75 % of participants reported a marked improvement in their health

Last quarter saw a marked increase in sales.

Some ‘obvious’ synonyms have negative associations. The adjective glaring means ‘very obvious’ and is used before nouns for things that have not been done correctly:

The report contained several glaring errors.

They were victims of a glaring injustice.

There is a glaring omission from the list.

The adjective blatant is also used before nouns to refer to something bad that is very obvious and done with no attempt to hide it:

That’s a blatant lie!

The whole episode was a blatant attempt to get publicity.

A very formal word which means both ‘total’ and ‘obvious’ is patent. It often comes before the word ‘lie’ or words meaning ‘nonsense’:

These are patent lies.

He claims that the government wasn’t aware of the situation. This is patent nonsense!

And what about phrases and idioms in this area? To emphasize that a situation or someone’s feelings are extremely obvious, you might say it is blindingly or glaringly obvious:

He wasn’t happy here. That was glaringly obvious.

Something that stands out is very easy to see because it is very obviously different from everything that is near it:

Wear something bright that will make you stand out in the crowd.

Something that is very easy to see or understand may be said informally to stand or stick out a mile:

His lack of experience sticks out a mile.

Meanwhile, a solution to a problem that is obvious may be said to be staring you in the face:

The answer was staring us in the face all along.

Finally, a useful phrase which you can use to introduce something that you feel should be obvious is, it goes without saying:

It goes without saying that you’re welcome to stay with us any time you like.


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