I'm trying to find a word that is used to describe something that is generally accepted and well known, but is not necessarily written down or properly defined. The word is one I have used in the past but for some reason my neurons are not firing properly and I can not remember the word.

Synonyms include: pragmatic, standard, well known, experiential, practical, empirical, observed, accepted.

You might use it in a sentence such as

Most of the instructions are based on <blank> information by a variety of individuals.

or in a slightly different form

Their <blank> experiences in the field define the way the business operates.

[edit]I've added my own answer because I have since found the word I was looking for: Anecdotal. My synonyms above were slightly inaccurate, although the sentences, along with what I wanted to use the word for, still works as I intended it to based on the actual definition.[/edit]

  • how about folklore
    – GEdgar
    Mar 28, 2012 at 0:19
  • It doesn't sound right in your sentences, but how about de facto?
    – zpletan
    Mar 28, 2012 at 3:22
  • Even though no one found it (partly because of my inaccurate synonyms), I do really appreciate everyone's help!
    – tcnolan
    Mar 28, 2012 at 5:11

11 Answers 11


For your first statement I would offer: established

Most of the instructions are based on established information from a variety of individuals.

For the second: collective

Their collective experiences in the field define the way the business operates.

Although I would note that semantically, the second sentence is not quite right- Those experiences could help to shape the way the business operates or they inform the processes adopted by the business, but the experiences cannot, in and of themselves, define the way the business operates.


I suggest prominent:

b : widely and popularly known

So you would have

Most of the instructions are based on prominent information by a variety of individuals.

Their prominent experiences in the field define the way the business operates.


Convention might work, with a little rewording of your sentences.

Here's the definition:

  1. General agreement on or acceptance of certain practices or attitudes: By convention, north is at the top of most maps.
  2. A practice or procedure widely observed in a group, especially to facilitate social interaction; a custom: the convention of shaking hands.
  • 2
    The OP wants an adjective, which would be "conventional". Mar 28, 2012 at 0:41
  • I thought of conventional, but I think of "unimaginative" when I hear the word "conventional." That's why I said it would take a bit of rewording.
    – JLG
    Mar 28, 2012 at 1:13

You could use normative:

  1. of or pertaining to a norm, especially an assumed norm regarded as the standard of correctness in behavior, speech, writing, etc.

  2. tending or attempting to establish such a norm, especially by the prescription of rules: normative grammar.

  3. reflecting the assumption of such a norm or favoring its establishment: a normative attitude.

(source here)


How about "common"?:

  1. pertaining or belonging equally to an entire community, nation, or culture; public
  2. widespread; general; ordinary:

Although none of these provide comprehensive answers, traditional, folk, cumulative, ingrained, and seasoned are possibilities that fit various aspects of the question.





Though, I think canonical is more fitting.


A "best practice" is the standard way of doing things in a field. Wikipedia defines it as "a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means."


So your sentences might become:

Most of the instructions are based on industry best practices.

The field's best practices define the way the business operates.

From the OED:

best practice n. chiefly Business (as a mass noun) the practice which is accepted by consensus or prescribed by regulation as correct; the preferred or most appropriate style.

  • There is a huge controversy about best practice(s), with some of the "recommended" best practices gaining notoriety. I think it is better not to continue past doing this phrase to death. :)
    – Kris
    Mar 28, 2012 at 6:54
  • Kris, isn't that true for any of the other suggested words? The words conventional, anecdotal, common, and mainstream can all be used where specific evidence would be more convincing.
    – amcnabb
    Mar 28, 2012 at 23:55
  • Unlike the other established words, best practices came into being without a clear definition, so people went about using it in any which way. And it became a buzz word!
    – Kris
    Mar 29, 2012 at 9:20
  • I have edited my answer to include the clear definition from the OED. The word "conventional" has 12 definitions, "anecdotal" has 2, "common" has 5, and "mainstream" has 2. Sure, anything can be used as a buzzword, and that has nothing to do with whether there are clear definitions.
    – amcnabb
    Mar 29, 2012 at 14:49

max·im ˈmaksim/Submit noun plural noun: maxims 1. a short, pithy statement expressing a general truth or rule of conduct. "the maxim that actions speak louder than words" synonyms: saying, adage, aphorism, proverb, motto, saw, axiom, dictum, precept, epigram; More


Mainstream: considered ordinary or normal and accepted or used by most people.

  • Thanks for the post, but not quite it. Mainstream actually starts to get toward the edge of the meaning I'm referring to.
    – tcnolan
    Mar 27, 2012 at 23:41

Reddit came to the rescue with this one. The word I couldn't remember was Anecdotal, as in anecdotal evidence. My synonyms were wrong, but my original understanding / use of the word was still accurate.

Definition: "(2) Based on casual observations or indications rather than rigorous or scientific analysis"

  • 6
    Anecdotal has a distinct negative connotation in most contexts. Also, it is not necessarily 'accepted' or even well-known at all.
    – Kris
    Mar 28, 2012 at 6:55
  • Kris, did the OP specifically ask for positive connotations? I don't see any hint of this in the question.
    – amcnabb
    Mar 28, 2012 at 23:59
  • @amcnabb: the OP did not say explicitly 'I want words with positive connotations' but all his synonyms and explanation are in the positive direction. 'pragmatic','accepted', 'well-known', etc.
    – Mitch
    Mar 29, 2012 at 15:15

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