Listen to the author reading this blog post:
Today, I’m looking at the various words that we use to describe things that are unusual or in some way different. As usual, I’ll be looking at the subtle differences in meaning between this group of near-synonyms.
The word unique in its strictest sense means ‘different from anything or anyone else’. For example, we might say, ‘Each fingerprint is unique.’ We also use this adjective more loosely to mean ‘very unusual and special in some way’:
She has her own unique style. / He had a unique blend of talents and qualities.
This is a highly original piece of work.
They’ve come up with a novel approach to solving this problem.
Meanwhile, in UK English, the word curious is used of things that are unusual in a rather strange way that makes you feel interested:
That’s a curious-looking garment! / His home is a curious mix of high- and low-tech.
It’s a very rare plant.
Accidents of this type are fairly uncommon nowadays.
A freak event, meanwhile, is extremely unusual and could not have been predicted:
She was severely injured in a freak accident during a training session at the ground. / Sadly, what used to be called ‘freak storms’ are increasingly common.
Other adjectives describe things or people that are very unusual and surprising, for example remarkable and extraordinary. The adjectives exceptional and outstanding emphasize that someone or something is different because they are very much better than others of the same type:
The courage he showed throughout was quite remarkable.
This was an extraordinary achievement.
She is an exceptional talent.
It was an outstanding performance by the whole team.
Something that is notable makes you notice it because it is unusual, usually in a good way:
The most notable feature of the building is its extraordinary staircase.
Somehow it doesn’t quite capture the book’s quirky charm.
The director is known for her offbeat (UK) humour / (US) humor.
Something that is different from what society generally considers to be normal is sometimes described as unconventional:
I had a fairly unconventional upbringing. / Her methods were somewhat unconventional.
If you enjoyed this post, do look out for my next one which will continue the theme of being different or unusual, but will focus on idioms and phrases with this meaning.