Programmers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

When reading about best practices and code reviews, I have come across a word/phrase that people on forums have used to describe code that should be a warning sign that the programmer may have missed something or made a mistake.

A sample sentence would have gone something like this: "Often if you see a single if statement with 10 ands/ors, it is a _____, though in certain cases it can be correct."

What is this word? I want to include this in a code review document I am writing.

share|improve this question
Hm... – Mehrdad Jan 16 '12 at 0:12
Why aren't the terms "red flag" or "warning sign" sufficient? – Thomas Owens Jan 16 '12 at 0:48
up vote 16 down vote accepted

"Code smell" is probably the word you're looking for:

In computer programming, code smell is any symptom in the source code of a program that possibly indicates a deeper problem.

share|improve this answer
That's it!!! Thank you! – GendoIkari Jan 16 '12 at 1:11
I'd shy away from using the term "code smell" in a formal document, however. Terms such as "red flag", "warning sign", "indicator" or "X is indicative of Y" are more professional and more readily to be accepted/understood by non-programmers. – Thomas Owens Jan 16 '12 at 1:21
@ThomasOwens - if you're talking about specific pieces of code, then you obviously aren't talking to non-programmers. "Code smell" has an accepted meaning within the profession, I see no reason not to use it. – Mike Baranczak Jan 16 '12 at 3:29

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.