I'm looking for a word that means the opposite of what one would expect. This word might be used to express the surprise that a teenager's grandmother uses text messaging much more than he does, or that a city seems brighter at night than it does during the day.

I'm not seeking the word ironic or irony which refer to the use of something to describe its opposite experience or emotion.

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    ...Unexpected? I'm not sure how this is a quesetion that doesn't just warrant the use of a thesaurus...
    – Zibbobz
    Sep 10, 2013 at 20:16
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    I was hoping for something a little more specific than "unexpected" which is why I moved on from the thesaurus! Unexpected can be used even when the thing you're experiencing, and the possibility of it happening, was not ever considered. I'm asking about the word that describes an expectation that is undermined by the opposing fact. Sep 10, 2013 at 20:35
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    Understood, though I feel "unexpected" would still work in this case, and perhaps is just a little less specific than you were looking for. I've added a few more suggestions below that are more contrary (one of the suggestions!), which I hope will help you out.
    – Zibbobz
    Sep 10, 2013 at 20:46
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    Matt, that's all well and good, but that's also why we exhort people to share their research when they post their question. If you've already considered and rejected unexpected, then the least you could do is tell us that, and explain why it's not quite what you want. Then we would all be in a position to get our minds on the same track as you, as opposed to scratching our heads, wondering, "What the heck is wrong with unexpected?" I'm glad you did that with ironic, but, generally speaking, the more info you share, the more we all get on the same sheet of music.
    – J.R.
    Sep 10, 2013 at 20:47
  • You should probably revisit "irony", because it appears by your definition, you might be confused about what the word actually means.
    – EuroMarkus
    Feb 11, 2015 at 7:21

13 Answers 13


Counterintuitively, the teenager's grandmother uses text messaging much more than he does.

counterintuitive - contrary to what intuition or common sense [or expectation] would indicate.

Potential differences between counterintuitive and unexpected are...

1: Normally, only "facts" or "conclusions" (not "events") are described as counterintuitive.

2: Normally, counterintuitive implies that you actually expect an "opposite" scenario to be true.

3: Something can be unexpected even if you hadn't previously given any thought to the possibility of it happening. Thus, the doorbell can ring unexpectedly late at night, but probably not counterintuitively.


"Contradictory" or "contrary" is perhaps the best word I can think of to describe the situation you are trying to describe. An opposite and unexpected conclusion.

The antithesis of something is also the exact opposite of what you are referring to, or in opposition of what you are referring to. So if you had an expected reaction, and the reaction were the exact opposite, you could say it was the 'antithesis' of what you expected.

You could do the same thing just using the word "opposite", actually.

If you don't mind making the statement that the result was impossible, you could also call it a paradox, meaning that the statement should be false, but is nontheless true. I wouldn't recommend this though, as it requires a very precise use of the word.

  • shocking
  • unforeseen
  • remarkable
  • unanticipated
  • abnormal
  • astonishing
  • astounding (THEAO)
  • I would add astounding
    – THEAO
    Sep 11, 2013 at 7:54

The term anomaly means

something that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected:

there are a number of anomalies in the present system

[with clause]: the apparent anomaly that those who produced the wealth were the poorest

Anomaly may be used in circumstances that deviate, but are not necessarily opposite.


You also might want to consider "improbably:"

Improbable: unlikely to be true or to occur; also: unlikely but true or real.


Today, improbably enough, the frequent characterization of North Korea as a Stalinist or hard-line communist nation appears to be having a calming effect...

Improbably, the tiger survives.

Improbably, the US Dollar strengthens.

Improbably, the teenager's grandmother uses text messaging much more than he does.

Other adverbs that could work for you are "unbelievably" and "incredibly."

Unbelievable: too improbable to be believed.

Unbelievably, the surgery has no apparent effect on personality or memory.

Unbelievably, the teenager's grandmother uses text messaging much more than he does.

Incredible: too extraordinary and improbable to be believed.

Incredibly, the grandmother agrees with him and is ready to hand the kid over to him.

Incredibly, the teenager's grandmother uses text messaging much more than he does.

"Surprisingly" could do the trick also.

Surprising: unexpected or unusual: causing surprise.

Surprisingly, the teenager's grandmother uses text messaging much more than he does.


Perhaps this is what you're searching for? My google search came up with this website first, and then this wikipedia article.

An auto-antonym (sometimes spelled autantonym), or contronym (also spelled contranym), is a word with a homograph (another word of the same spelling) which is also an antonym (a word with the opposite meaning). An auto-antonym is alternatively called an antagonym, Janus word (after the Roman god), enantiodrome, self-antonym, antilogy, or addad (Arabic, singular didd).[2][3] It is a word with multiple meanings, one of which is defined as the reverse of one of its other meanings. This phenomenon is called enantiosemy,[4] enantionymy or antilogy.



We can call it as Paradoxical Reaction which means a medicine which is used to reduce pain increases the pain when it is consumed.

another words may be exclaimed, astonished or shocked, almost next to impossible...


The city is bright during the day, though conversely, it seems even brighter at night.

'Conversely' could fit well, depending on how you structure the sentence.

Jane the teenager sent texts very often, as is typical of girls her age, though conversely, her grandmother sent even more texts than her.

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    I'm not comfortable with either of those examples of use (I'm not saying they are wrong, merely that I wouldn't write them, and given editorial control would rewrite them using some word other than conversely). In my estimation, most “correct” uses of conversely are in accord with the logical meaning of converse: “For the implication P → Q, the converse is Q → P. For the categorical proposition All S is P, the converse is All P is S.” Sep 11, 2013 at 5:14
  • The downvote was someone else's thang. Sep 12, 2013 at 6:39

I might say those cited outcomes (gran using text talk) were 'refreshing', but probably not what you're looking for...


How about the word startling? (adjective) very surprising, astonishing, or remarkable. synonyms: surprising, astonishing, amazing, unexpected, unforeseen, staggering, shocking, stunning.


I think the word you were looking for was 'sarcasm' or the statement was 'sarcastic'

  • How would this be sarcastic? Look at the OP's examples. Why would it be sarcasm if a teenager were surprised his grandmother texts more than he. Or, that a city is brighter at night than day.
    – David M
    Feb 21, 2014 at 19:35

Parodoxically, ironically, or counterintuitively are the words that come to mind.


Perversely, his grandmother uses text-messaging more often then he. Rather, "it is perverse that..." would be a better sentence construction.

also: It is abnormal that...

Weird would also suffice.

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