I was listening to a story about violence at malls and the host said it was only a matter of time before metal detectors were at malls. My thought was once they become integrated with normal door frames, then metal detectors would be everywhere. At that point in time metal detectors would become ... and that's the word I can't think of.

When metal detectors become so commonplace that no one notices them any more then they are _______.

I think the word I want ends in -ous.

  • 7
    'Ubiquitous' is largely synonymous with 'commonplace' and is poor stylistically in most sentences using both. 'Commonplace' is actually the more appropriate word to use here; it is more natural-sounding (in almost all contexts), and here invokes the 'familiarity has bred contempt' notion far better. Note that your 'used to be unique' constraint makes the answer 'ubiquitous' incorrect. Dec 27, 2016 at 23:24
  • @EdwinAshworth: Most things that are considered ubiquitous today did not become so instantaneously. Can you elaborate more why "used to be unique" is disqualifying?
    – jxh
    Dec 27, 2016 at 23:42
  • @jxh Are you saying that 'most' means 'all'? Look at sections 3 and 4 here at YourDictionary. I suggest you remove your answer. ELU is not a 'guess my poorly-defined word' site. Dec 27, 2016 at 23:48
  • 1
    Wow, you went with ubiquitous... I was expecting something more along the lines of mundane
    – Jim
    Dec 28, 2016 at 2:01

5 Answers 5


You are probably thinking of the word ubiquitous.

: existing or being everywhere at the same time

However, this is usually used to connote "can be found anywhere" rather than "so common, it's presence is unnoticed". Another -ous word that does connote being unnoticed would be inconspicuous, but it lacks the connotation of "being everywhere".

: not readily noticeable

So, your sample sentence could be completed with inconspicuously ubiquitous.

Giving the used to be unique constraint more consideration (prompted by Edwin's comment), yet another -ous word occurred to me: insidious. For the specific example of metal detectors becoming ubiquitous, you can argue the situation should be viewed in a negative light. Insidious imparts the notion of a bad situation gradually becoming more pervasive. However, it also gives the connotation of becoming more noticeable over time, not less.

1 a : awaiting a chance to entrap : treacherous
1 b : harmful but enticing : seductive <insidious drugs>
2 a : having a gradual and cumulative effect : subtle <the insidious pressures of modern life>
2 b of a disease : developing so gradually as to be well established before becoming apparent

So, another way to end your sample sentence would be insidiously inconspicuous.

  • 6
    No. The 'used to be unique' constraint makes this answer incorrect. Dec 27, 2016 at 23:28
  • +1 I think in the original sentence, the terms actually work better in reverse: When metal detectors become so ubiquitous that no one notices them any more then they are commonplace.
    – 1006a
    Dec 28, 2016 at 0:06
  • 1
    But metal detectors could easily be - and by some standards ARE - commonplace without being ubiquitous.
    – jamesqf
    Dec 28, 2016 at 3:27
  • Only 14 results for the long-winded insidiously inconspicuous
    – Mari-Lou A
    Dec 28, 2016 at 11:29
  • @Mari-LouA And the very first result is a link to this question.
    – soulblazer
    Dec 28, 2016 at 20:12

The sample sentence could be rephrased

When metal detectors become the norm rather than the exception, we will no longer notice them.

The OP is describing a situation where something that was once an "exception" is now accepted as being "unremarkable" and standard.

something that is usual, typical, or standard.
(Oxford Living Dictionaries)

  • 3
    The (currently) more popular "ubiquitous" answer does not convey banality anywhere near as much as "the norm", which also conveys a sense of ubiquity.
    – Bohemian
    Dec 29, 2016 at 2:20
  • I was less focused on the normality of their presence, and more on them being embedded within door frames, and on -ous.
    – jxh
    Dec 29, 2016 at 15:10
  • I am also uneasy with accepting ubiquitous metal detectors as normal.
    – jxh
    Dec 29, 2016 at 15:25

You could also consider a phrase rather than a word.

the new normal

a previously unfamiliar or atypical situation that has become standard, usual, or expected.

Your example sentence would then become

When metal detectors in malls become the new normal ...

The use of the phrase "new normal" clearly implies that their ubiquity is new.


If you want to stress the used-to-be-rare aspect, preface whatever word you choose with "now-". I'd go with "now-commonplace", because "commonplace" carries a strong connotation (even to the point of being dismissive) of being really, really unspecial, unremarkable, widely accepted. "The now-commonplace cell phone allows us to be connected in a way the prior generation could hardly have imagined."

Ubiquitious does not carry the connotation of being uncontroversial. "Our now-ubiquitous security checks would sadden our free-traveling grandparents".


How about ubiquitous?

Present, appearing, or found everywhere:
‘his ubiquitous influence was felt by all the family’
‘cowboy hats are ubiquitous among the male singers’

  • 3
    No. The 'used to be unique' constraint makes this answer incorrect. Dec 27, 2016 at 23:28
  • 3
    @EdwinAshworth: Although the asker may not have fully understood the nuances, it doesn't mean that ubiquitous is incorrect if the intent of the answer is to identify the likely word the asker wanted to use.
    – jxh
    Dec 27, 2016 at 23:32
  • 3
    @jxh The correct course of action when presented with a poorly delineated single word request is never to guess at an answer. This is a misuse of the site. // An answer is incorrect if it doesn't answer the question as written, not as might possibly have been intended. Dec 27, 2016 at 23:36
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth: True, guessing should be discouraged. But, it is hard to say ubiquitous is wrong when presented with (1) means "found everywhere" and (2) "ends with -ous". There were other things besides "used to be unique" that make ubiquitous problematic which I raised in my answer. And many answers to requests for phrases or words come in the form doesn't quite fit your sample, but if you rewrite it, you could use....
    – jxh
    Dec 27, 2016 at 23:40
  • 1
    @Mibalzich: I am guessing Edwin doesn't really mean ubiquitous cannot be used for things that were once unique, but that it doesn't satisfy means something that used to be unique. I can re-word the title, but please edit it if my edit no longer reflects your intention.
    – jxh
    Dec 28, 2016 at 0:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.