"abnormal" appears to be associated mostly with a deviation from the norm that is detrimental or undesirable.

Is there a word for when the deviation is in the opposite direction?

Edit - some definitions, implying negativity:

Google / Oxford dict:

deviating from what is normal or usual, typically in a way that is undesirable or worrying.

Cambridge dict:

different from what is usual or average, especially in a way that is bad


deviating from the normal or average

a person with abnormal [=exceptional] strength

abnormal powers of concentration

often : unusual in an unwelcome or problematic way

I also found two that are neutral:


not normal, average, typical, or usual; deviating from a standard


Not typical, usual, or regular; not normal; deviant

From my experience of communicating with people, I am under the impression it is generally taken in a negative context too. To me an explicitly negative version would be "subnormal", so I am wondering if there is a word that specifies that it is above normal.

  • 1
    A sample sentence please. I do not necessarily agree that abnormal is undesirable. Context is imperative.
    – lbf
    Commented Jun 10, 2018 at 1:50
  • Outstanding works for me, but I'm not sure if it would work in this context.
    – Bread
    Commented Jun 10, 2018 at 2:15
  • 1
    @lbf - it doesn't sound necessarily negative to me either - that would be "subnormal" IMO, but I've read several thesaurus definitions and they all either "in a bad way" or "usually in a bad way".
    – dtech
    Commented Jun 10, 2018 at 7:46

2 Answers 2


You can try extraordinary

Defined in Oxford dictionaries as:

Very unusual or remarkable.
‘the extraordinary plumage of the male’

And by the American Heritage Dictionary as:

  1. Beyond what is ordinary or usual: extraordinary authority.
  2. Highly exceptional; remarkable: an extraordinary achievement.

I would posit unique, eccentric and non-conformist as positive/non-pejorative synonyms for abnormal.

"Though his work was not in the mainstream, he was most certainly unique in his eccentric artistic view. His oeuvre comprised an eclectic melange of 'found art', discovered from rummaging many a rubbish bin on pick-up day."

I've heard many people described as eccentric (a polite compliment), rather than convicting the non-conformist by using the judgemental/shaming adjective "abnormal."

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