forming an exception or rare instance; unusual; extraordinary: The warm weather was exceptional for January.
unusually excellent; superior: an exceptional violinist.
Education. (of a child)
  1. being intellectually gifted.
  2. being physically or especially mentally disabled to an extent that special schooling is required.

Origin of exceptional

First recorded in 1840–50; exception + -al1
Related formsex·cep·tion·al·i·ty, nounex·cep·tion·al·ly, adverbex·cep·tion·al·ness, nounnon·ex·cep·tion·al, adjectivenon·ex·cep·tion·al·ly, adverbpre·ex·cep·tion·al, adjectivepre·ex·cep·tion·al·ly, adverbqua·si-ex·cep·tion·al, adjectivequa·si-ex·cep·tion·al·ly, adverbsu·per·ex·cep·tion·al, adjectivesu·per·ex·cep·tion·al·ly, adverb
Can be confusedexceptionable exceptional

Synonyms for exceptional

Antonyms for exceptional

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for exceptional

Contemporary Examples of exceptional

Historical Examples of exceptional

  • Every year he adds some fresh decoration, some new and exceptional scene.

  • Of course there's a horde of applicants, but you're exceptional; you know that.

  • His next move proved that his cunning was of an exceptional order.


    W. A. Fraser

  • But then he is an exceptional and note-worthy man--one among ten thousand.

    In the Valley

    Harold Frederic

  • What had any of these people done that was noble, exceptional, distinguished?

British Dictionary definitions for exceptional



forming an exception; not ordinary
having much more than average intelligence, ability, or skill
Derived Formsexceptionally, adverb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for exceptional

1846, from exception + -al (1). Related: exceptionally.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper