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An anti-pattern is a behavior or practice that is common despite being ineffective or counterproductive.

In software engineering, an anti-pattern (or antipattern) is a pattern that may be commonly used but is ineffective and/or counterproductive in practice.

The term was coined in 1995 by Andrew Koenig, inspired by Gang of Four's book Design Patterns, which developed the concept of design patterns in the software field. The term was widely popularized three years later by the book AntiPatterns, which extended the use of the term beyond the field of software design and into general social interaction. According to the authors of the latter, there must be at least two key elements present to formally distinguish an actual anti-pattern from a simple bad habit, bad practice, or bad idea:

  • Some repeated pattern of action, process or structure that initially appears to be beneficial, but ultimately produces more bad consequences than beneficial results, and
  • An alternative solution exists that is clearly documented, proven in actual practice and repeatable.

(excerpted from the Wikipedia article)