I came across an exercise in my schoolbook in which only unexpected was an accepted answer. I did some research, and found out that unexpectable is not a word you can find in dictionaries such as Oxford and Cambridge. However, Merriam Webster offers a definition for it and this is a dictionary I trust. My question is... is the latter accepted only in spoken language? If not, what is the difference between the two words?

  • 1
    The Ngram gives no return for 'expectable/unexpectable' against 'expected/unexpected'.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 22:03
  • Please include the research you’ve done. Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 1:39
  • I have (as hyperlinks).
    – Alister
    Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 7:36

1 Answer 1


Unexpected is certainly the word you'd see the most (of the two).

According to CD, unexpected, means:

not expected

According to MW, unexpectable means:


Those two are not the same, the first means: not in the line of expectation, it is not what we would expect. Unpredictable means something is hard or impossible to predict. Some example sentences (to clarify their meaning):

That was unexpected, I never thought I'd win the lottery.

Yesterday was totally unexpectable, the magician predicted the lottery numbers just hours before the draw!

As for if unexpectable is correct and addressing the word not being in most dictionaries, it has a prefix, "un", once we leave that out, we get expectable, which has an entry in ELD, but no definition (merely a redirect to expect). The question whether expectable is a proper word is also addressed on quora, where multiple users agree and argue it is a word.

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