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It is right on the tip of my tongue, and I have searched the online thesauruses but I can't come up with it. What's the word that could fill in the blank:

He came to the ___ conclusion that you must be willing to serve if you want to truly lead.

The best I could come up with is "non-intuitive", but that just doesn't sound right. I know there's a better one. I want a word that means "this is not what you would expect", "this goes against your intuition". Something that approaches "nonsensical" or "irrational" but without the disparaging overtones, yet more forceful than "surprising".

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3  
Surprising? Unexpected? Ah, Counter-intuitive, that's it. –  John Lawler Jul 12 '12 at 16:27
    
@john lawler: bingo! you got it! Submit that as an answer & I'll accept it. –  kmote Jul 12 '12 at 16:31
    
Are we to guess the word in your mind or what? –  Gigili Jul 12 '12 at 16:35
    
@john lawler guessed it (and knew it when he got it): "Counter-intuitive". (I knew I was close, I just couldn't come up with it). –  kmote Jul 12 '12 at 16:36
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Good. It felt right. You got the answer, so that's good enough for me. –  John Lawler Jul 12 '12 at 17:01

5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Counterintuitive ("Contrary to intuition or common sense"), as one word rather than hyphenated, is appropriate. (The hyphenated form is an accepted variant.)

After I thought of this word, I noticed John Lawler already mentioned it in a comment. Oh well.

Other possibilities are contrary ("opposed in nature") and contrarian ("a person who expresses a contradicting viewpoint, especially one who denounces the majority persuasion"), with the latter noun used adjectively.

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Yes, indeed that was the word I was looking for. John Lawler already suggested it in his comment to the original post. But if he doesn't post it as an answer, I'll select yours. –  kmote Jul 12 '12 at 16:46
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Somewhere I read, "Just because an idea is counter-intuitive doesn't prove that it's true." –  Jay Jul 12 '12 at 20:17

Another possibility is "paradoxical" or "seemingly paradoxical".

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Very good. I like it. –  kmote Jul 12 '12 at 20:26

Astounding?

: causing astonishment or amazement

He came to the astounding conclusion that you must be willing to serve if you want to truly lead.

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"Astounding" seems ok, but for present purpose, I prefer "startling" to "astounding" –  jwpat7 Jul 12 '12 at 20:53

Unintuitive feels right to me.

He came to the unintuitive conclusion that you must be willing to serve if you want to truly lead.

If not, obscure seems also like a fair fit.

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Hmm, that's actually the word I started with. But I still think there's another (even more common) one just around the corner... –  kmote Jul 12 '12 at 16:25
    
Also, unintuitive isn't in the MW dictionary. –  kmote Jul 12 '12 at 16:27
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Dang, counter-intuitive seems so... intuitive too :) –  ngmiceli Jul 12 '12 at 16:32
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No way! Results from Google Books for the X conclusion - counterintuitive:3070, counter-intuitive:801, unintuitive:8. MW notwithstanding, OED lists unintuitive - but it means not intuitive, rather than contradicting intuition. –  FumbleFingers Jul 12 '12 at 20:55
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@FumbleFingers You're exactly correct on the computer-related subjects. In fact "unintuitive interface" was the particular phrase that popped into my mind when writing it. I guess its not so much region-specific but subject. –  ngmiceli Jul 12 '12 at 22:36

I would use the words: ambiguous, enigmatic, equivocal, indistinct, nonobvious, obfuscated, unapparent, or even Ironic.

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