Is there an adjective that can sum up "better than expected"?

For example: "Progress was better than expected." Is there a single word I can use to describe what the progress was like? I'm looking more for in the context of progress that went beyond initial expectations. I saw some suggestions online like "fantastic, amazing, wonderful", but those to me don't symbolize "beyond expected", but more like "beyond great".

5 Answers 5


I think you could use the word surprising, which has one definition of "unexpected." So, your sentence would be: The progress was surprising.

I think that the word progress itself implies something positive. Therefore by saying that the progress was surprising, you imply that the result was both good and exceeded your expectations.

  • +1 "Progress" with an extremely positive word implies something positive, as e.g. progress in "progress was at a stand-still" or "progress was poor" does not have a positive implication.
    – Jason C
    Jul 17, 2014 at 14:55
  • In my opinion, the explanation is misleading. When you say "progress is surprising", it still implies that it is something you wouldn't expect. It does not have to be better. Even it implies something positive, it wouldn't mean "better" at all. You might say "surprisingly good" to make it clear but still depends on what you want to mean. Also, the question is general but this answer is limited to certain cases if it is the case at all.
    – ermanen
    Jul 17, 2014 at 18:39
  • @ermanen, I think you would need to qualify surprising if the progress was worse than expected (i.e. The progress was surprisingly poor.); but even without a qualifier, progress is a positive word, a forward or onward movement or betterment. I can't think of a time that someone would actually interpret The progress was surprising. as meaning "The progress was worse than I expected." (Note that the past tense is wanted here.)
    – JLG
    Jul 17, 2014 at 22:31
  • I meant surprising can be neither worse nor better even it is a progress. We can still use this word but it would need more context in my opinion. It doesn't add more than the progress itself than if progress is a betterment. Also, surprising is not better than "better than expected" :)
    – ermanen
    Jul 17, 2014 at 22:48

Exceptional progress was exceptional.


better-than-expected is an adjective itself (as hyphenated) and it sums up "better than expected".

used to describe results , profits , etc. that are higher than it was thought they would be:

The company has reported better-than-expected second quarter results.

Source: http://dictionary.cambridge.org

Also, better than expected (without hyphens) can be used as an adjective phrase. (adjectival phrase). Here, "than expected" is a comparative complement inside the attributive adjective phrase:

a better than expected result

But, it shouldn't be confused with its adverbial form:

He performed better than expected.


There is outstanding:

  1. Standing out among others of its kind; prominent.
  2. Superior to others of its kind; distinguished.

And excellent:

  • exceptionally good; extremely meritorious; superior
  • possessing outstanding quality or superior merit; remarkably good.

And extraordinary:

  • exceptional to a high degree; noteworthy; remarkable: extraordinary speed.
  • Doesn't sound something that was "beyond expected", sounds more like "beyond good"
    – yuritsuki
    Jul 17, 2014 at 5:43
  • Exceptional has similar definitions. There's also "extraordinary". @thinlyveiledquestionmark
    – Jason C
    Jul 17, 2014 at 5:46

I think incredible or unimaginable may convey a strong idea of something that went beyond what was expected.

  1. beyond belief or understanding; unbelievable

  2. marvellous;

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