A friend has said that there is a word meaning the outcome is something very different from that originally envisaged. For example:

The Australian government introduced a "First time home owner" bonus. Where if you were buying your first house you would get a lump sum cash. Of course everyone selling a house in that price backet put the price up by the same amount as the lump sum and first time buyers didn't benefit at all.

Does anyone know if there is a word meaning this and what it is?


7 Answers 7


The usual term for this is unintended consequences. I'm not aware of a single-word term for the general case, although there are some examples for specific contexts – for example, serendipity for unintended discoveries and side-effects for unintended complications.

  • I like unintended consequences but I was looking for a single word. It may be that there isn't one.
    – rgh
    Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 7:39
  • 1
    A one-word term getting close could be: byproduct: "a secondary and sometimes unexpected consequence"
    – Pam
    Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 9:27

Dictionary.com lists this meaning as one sense of anomaly:

a·nom·a·ly Noun

Something that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected.

However, the first sense /two senses (standard; normal) here is / are far more common (though deviations from the normal are often unexpected).

The adjectives unexpected and unforeseen would normally be applied in this set of circumstances, but do not have noun counterparts. Unintended applies, of course, when the (probably - depends on the degree of risk considered acceptable) unexpected outcome is triggered by a human intervention such as the introducton of a "First time home owner bonus".


If you are looking for a single words I offer




You might also consider Streisand effect or perverse incentive


People also use irony for this. "Ironically, first-time home buyers ended up worse off than before."


Perhaps revolting development as in

What a revoltin' development this is!

This was a catchphrase used by the lead character, Riley, in the seminal television sitcom of the 1950s, The Life of Riley starring William Bendix. His best laid schemes gang aft agley, and his response was the above quote.


I had the same question as I remembered there was a term from my undergraduate sociology studies but couldn't pin it down. I did some digging and I believe I was looking for "latent" consequences, as they are described by the functionalist camp.



Maybe inadvertent would do.

The inadvertent result was the homeowner's pricing and payouts ended up cancelling one another out.

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