Definition of ordinary in US English:



  • 1With no special or distinctive features; normal.

    ‘he sets out to depict ordinary people’
    ‘it was just an ordinary evening’
    • ‘The show's distinctive features have been imitated by ordinary people and even by foreigners.’
    • ‘But what makes this really interesting, is that it makes it possible to put smartphone features onto a pretty ordinary phone.’
    • ‘Rather, it featured the works of ordinary folk making their first venture into the arts world.’
    • ‘It was expected to be an ordinary courtesy call, but the Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese Political Consultative Forum didn't hesitate to talk shop.’
    • ‘Yorkshire Building Society has announced that when its next board director comes up for retirement, probably next year, it would like to see an ordinary customer filling the seat.’
    • ‘There is no distinction between bold and ordinary text - which is a bit pesky.’
    • ‘Because that overt stylization distinguishes it from ordinary speech.’
    • ‘At this point in time, almost all of us are aware that an ordinary individual can't expect to take a flight without being stripped to the toenail clippers.’
    • ‘A young child who does not conceptually distinguish escalators from ordinary stairs would probably use the term stairs for both.’
    • ‘With this distinction comes a notoriety and privilege that normally takes the ordinary filmmaker half a lifetime to establish.’
    • ‘Mr Cheetham, who is a student at Northumbria University, said he thought Mr Gormley's works would help to break down prejudices against modern art, featuring as they do ordinary people.’
    • ‘An exhibition featuring the ordinary lives of Greenlanders and their arts and crafts came to Sofia for the first time on Tuesday.’
    • ‘New research by a York academic has shown that ordinary people simply can't distinguish the sound of a boys' choir from a girls' choir.’
    • ‘They are not only critical for Canada's trade relationship, but in fact have also become an ordinary feature of life for many Canadians.’
    • ‘If this is what distinguishes me from ordinary Australians, then I'm glad I'm different.’
    • ‘Much of the cost is not visible to ‘the elites’ but noticeable to ordinary people through daily experience.’
    • ‘There was no code of practice regulating the issue in Ireland, which restricted the ability of ordinary customers to shop around, he said.’
    • ‘During my days as a Vietnam war protester, it was always clear what distinguished ordinary liberals from leftists.’
    • ‘They thought the colonial situation held considerable potential for conflict between ordinary settlers and the natives and it was their responsibility to keep it in check.’
    • ‘The woman was a pretty woman of fair hair and ordinary dress with delicate features that seemed a bit pinched.’
    usual, normal, standard, typical, stock, common, customary, habitual, accustomed, expected, wonted, everyday, regular, routine, day-to-day, daily, established, settled, set, fixed, traditional, quotidian, prevailing
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Uninteresting; commonplace.
      ‘ordinary items of everyday wear’
      • ‘Simple, ordinary people don't interest Varma.’
      • ‘Imagine on top of this that you wanted, in fact, to mount an argument as to what makes certain daguerreotypes exceptional and others merely ordinary.’
      • ‘It is a common and ordinary experience to occasionally discover scratches and cuts with no memory of how they got there.’
      • ‘It always amazed Diana at how many once ordinary, common things were now worth high dollars to collectors.’
      • ‘Neruda's faith in the power of poetry was not because he wrote thousands of verses but because his poetry held meaning for the most common and ordinary people.’
      • ‘All are ordinary working men, except for Kenneth Pyper, an aristocratic artist turned existential nihilist who, unlike the others, seems genuinely prepared for death.’
      • ‘Annie Allen's another one of Brooks's very ordinary, totally undistinguished characters.’
      • ‘It is a strangely ordinary evening in an extraordinary life.’
      • ‘Instead of her common, ordinary brown eyes, her eyes now were completely black, except for one small glowing gold pupil in the center.’
      • ‘He was a very ordinary nondescript man with average brown hair and build.’
      • ‘He advocated that literature should record the writer's affectionate response to ordinary phenomena and commonplace happenings.’
      • ‘Unfortunately, by ordinary consciousness I do not mean the ordinary consciousness of commonplace minds.’
      • ‘I was a small boy of no more than five years old, and my younger brother was with me on a very ordinary evening.’
      • ‘In a warm-up game against South Africa, Smith made 57 and in the process made the World Cup attack look distinctly ordinary.’
      • ‘This was another case of ordinary life being more interesting than it looked at first sight.’
      • ‘But too often, Bowering chooses to write at a loping gait about prosaic, ordinary things, which can be uneventful and boring for the reader on the outside looking in.’
      • ‘For young readers, My Brother Martin is an exceptional story about an ordinary boy who became an extraordinary man.’
      • ‘What happened to me was not ordinary and average and commonplace and I reject any word that makes it appear so.’
      • ‘‘The maestro is just an ordinary man except for the music, enjoying food and cherishing friendship,’ Zhang recalled.’
      • ‘It was bred as recently as 1852 in the Loire, probably as a table grape from Chasselas and the distinctly ordinary Muscat de Saumur, according to Galet.’
      average, normal, run-of-the-mill, standard, typical, middle-of-the-road, common, conventional, mainstream, unremarkable, unexceptional, unpretentious, modest, plain, simple, homely, homespun, workaday, undistinguished, nondescript, characterless, colourless, commonplace, humdrum, mundane, unmemorable, pedestrian, prosaic, quotidian, uninteresting, uneventful, dull, boring, uninspiring, bland, suburban, hackneyed, stale, mediocre, middling, indifferent
      View synonyms
  • 2(especially of a judge or bishop) exercising authority by virtue of office and not by delegation.

    • ‘He is the second most senior ordinary judge of the Supreme Court, having been appointed to the bench in 1999 when he returned from the European Court.’
    • ‘Murphy's model was to have senior judges and ordinary judges under the one umbrella.’
    • ‘Should this be the case, an ordinary judge is not allowed to disregard the national legislation but is bound to refer it to the Constitutional Court.’
    • ‘His position was more like the Pope than that of an ordinary bishop.’
    • ‘All the ordinary judges of the Supreme Court and the chief justice were educated in private schools.’


  • 1the ordinaryWhat is commonplace or standard.

    ‘their clichés were vested with enough emotion to elevate them above the ordinary’
    • ‘Luxurious style, fine craftsmanship, and authentic details elevate Aladdin Resort & Casino far above the ordinary.’
    • ‘His physical skills are above ordinary and that pays off on the defensive end.’
    • ‘It did some exploration into Medea's psyche, but the narrative in general had a direct approach, which robbed the play of rising above the ordinary.’
    • ‘This being a Dreamworks disc, and a ‘Special Edition’ at that, you can bet on a collection of extra material that is a cut above the ordinary.’
    • ‘This is the film that has mattered most to him since he wrote and directed The Apostle, yet there is nothing here that rises above the ordinary.’
    • ‘The telling of this story is not intended to suggest I have in some way been chosen, or that I own powers far above the ordinary.’
    • ‘It is Turner's lyrics that lift Arctic Monkeys above the ordinary.’
    • ‘It is their own compositions which mark out Rua as something above the ordinary.’
    • ‘And finally, the sublime constantly mixes with the ordinary.’
    • ‘The French fashion veteran infuses her clothes with feminine touches that lift them above the ordinary.’
    • ‘In their place, Echenoz proposes a rhetoric of platitude, insisting upon the commonplace, the dull, the ordinary.’
    • ‘What could have been an unfocused art movie is raised above the ordinary by Bill Murray's comic brilliance.’
    • ‘Opulent style, fine craftsmanship, and authentic details elevate Paris Las Vegas far above the ordinary.’
    • ‘It aims to offer 1,200 teams from some 60 nations something way above the ordinary.’
    • ‘The sentiments may be trite, but the graphics are often novel, demonstrating originality and computer skills above the ordinary.’
    • ‘At times yesterday they rose above the ordinary, and played with a lot of heart and defensive organisation.’
    • ‘He's on a par with Hitchcock for building tension and making the ordinary seem threatening.’
    • ‘Mrs. Tuitt's prowess and achievement at the sport of netball is another huge claim to fame which elevates her above the ordinary.’
    • ‘Akshaye, with his quiet presence and brooding eyes gets the chance to rise above the ordinary in a role, which I'm sure most actors would crave for.’
    • ‘McGinley, a late developer, was especially disappointing this year and having failed to build on his 2001 breakthrough may now return forever to the ranks of the ordinary.’
  • 2British Law
    A person, especially a judge, exercising authority by virtue of office and not by delegation.

    1. 2.1US (in some US states) a judge of probate.
  • 3usually OrdinaryThose parts of a Roman Catholic service, especially the Mass, which do not vary from day to day.

    • ‘Even so, between 1592 and 1595 Byrd published his three settings of the ordinary of the mass, the masses for three, four and five voices.’
    1. 3.1 A rule or book giving the order for saying the Mass.
  • 4Heraldry
    Any of the simplest principal charges used in coats of arms (especially chief, pale, bend, fess, bar, chevron, and saltire).

  • 5archaic A meal provided at a fixed time and price at an inn.

    1. 5.1 An inn providing a meal at a fixed time and price.
  • 6North American historical

    another term for penny-farthing


  • out of the ordinary

    • Unusual.

      ‘nothing out of the ordinary happened’
      • ‘It is really, really strange because I haven't done anything out of the ordinary.’
      • ‘We're not going to do anything extravagant or anything that's out of the ordinary.’
      • ‘Nothing seemed unusual or out of the ordinary that morning, to her eyes, at least.’
      • ‘Finding something out of the ordinary for gardeners can be tricky and some themes crop up again and again this Christmas.’
      • ‘It's an interesting one mainly because he's not really doing anything out of the ordinary with his weblog.’
      • ‘But this writer makes out as if angst in a political office is something out of the ordinary.’
      • ‘This in itself is hardly out of the ordinary; in fact it is a common occurrence.’
      • ‘I noticed the phone because it is the same model I have, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary.’
      • ‘Most carers insist that what they do is nothing out of the ordinary.’
      • ‘It may not seem like anything out of the ordinary, but the album title alone suggests otherwise.’
      unusual, exceptional, remarkable, extraordinary, unexpected, surprising, unaccustomed, uncommon, unfamiliar, abnormal, atypical, unwonted, out of the way, anomalous, different, special, exciting, memorable, striking, noteworthy, unique, singular, unheard of, impressive, outstanding, unconventional, unorthodox, exotic, strange, peculiar, odd, queer, curious, bizarre, offbeat, weird, outlandish
      View synonyms


Late Middle English: the noun partly via Old French; the adjective from Latin ordinarius ‘orderly’ (reinforced by French ordinaire), from ordo, ordin- ‘order’.