Elementary My Dear Watson – Meaning, Origin and Usage

There are a lot of things that may be hard to understand, the science behind space flight for example. At the same time, there are plenty of things that are so easy to understand, that even a child can deduce its meaning. If you ever heard of the saying “elementary my dear Watson”, this is exactly what it meant. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


When someone says elementary my dear Watson, it means that the solution to a problem is easily found. It also means that the topic of conversation is simple and very easy for most people to understand. In terms of solving problems or conflicts, elementary my dear Watson means or infers that the answer is easily found. It can also mean being straightforward or without complexity.

The phrase is most often used in a humorous fashion to explain just how easy an answer is to find, or will be to solve. In limited instances, it is used in a serious fashion to explain the ease at which a solution can be found. For the most part, when elementary my dear Watson is used, it is in reference to the books, characters, or Sherlock Holmes show.

Example Usage

“When it comes to learning the proper way to do algebra, the method is elementary my dear Watson”.

“With so many clues left behind at the crime scene, catching him was elementary my dear Watson”.

“Finding the way to the casino was elementary my dear Watson, all you had to do was follow the lights”.

“Learning to play the piano is elementary my dear Watson, just pick a note and let your fingers do the rest”.


Most people think of Sherlock Holmes when they hear the phrase elementary my dear Watson. However, though Sir Arthur Conan Doyle crafted many a memorable story with the English detective, he didn’t pen the phrase. It is a common misconception that he utters this phrase to his companion, Dr. Watson. However, he does state variations of the phrase over several books.

Due to the massive amount of reader use, when a live-action movie was made, the main character, Sherlock Holmes, was given the line elementary my dear Watson. Once the movie went live, fans all over the world picked up the phrase elementary my dear Watson. In 1910, there was a news story that ran in The Washington Herald that had the phrase “elementary my dear Watson” which further gave credence to the validity of the quotation.

Phrases Similar to Elementary My Dear Watson

  • Easy to understand
  • Simple
  • Readily apparent
  • Straightforward
  • Foolproof
  • Accessible
  • Evident

Phrases Opposite to Elementary My Dear Watson

  • Complicated
  • Complex
  • Hart to fathom
  • Very difficult
  • Inconvenient
  • Awkward
  • Unintelligible

What is the Correct Saying?

  • The proper way to say the phrase is – it is elementary, my dear Watson.

Ways People May Incorrectly Say Elementary My Dear Watson

Some ways that Elementary My Dear Watson is used incorrectly are:

  • There is no solution at all to this problem, it's elementary my dear Watson.
  • After all of that, I am still confused about the way forward, elementary my dear Watson after all.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Elementary My Dear Watson

Some ways that Elementary My Dear Watson is used correctly are:

  • Being a great teacher is elementary my dear Watson, you start by listening to your students and finish by inciting their passions.
  • Understanding the algorithm is elementary my dear Watson, you just need to follow the content that is promoted.
  • Once you put all of the information together, elementary my dear Watson. Catching criminals is simple because they always make mistakes.
  • Getting in shape is elementary my dear Watson, just cut out junk and get your body in motion.

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