The Meaning of Atypical: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of atypical? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word atypical, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word atypical mean?

According to Dictionary and Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary, the word atypical (pronounced eɪˈtɪpɪk ə l)most commonly refers to something that is irregular or unusual. This adjective can be used to describe a great many things, from people to things to weather and more. Someone could be said to have atypical behavior if they are not acting like themselves. This thing is completely different from the usual representative of a group. This is the opposite of the word typical. In the American English language, the prefixes a and un are often added to words in order to negate them, similarly to adding the word not before a certain word. This forms new words that we now use commonly.

The term atypical is also used in the medical field to refer to atypical antipsychotics, which are antipsychotic drugs that produce fewer adverse side effects on someone’s movement than other antipsychotic drugs. This could also refer to other atypical clinical findings or different forms of a disease like atypical pneumonia, or even a class of atypical mosses if you are a botanist.

There are also many other languages that use words that mean atypical. You may notice that many of these look and sound similarly to the word atypical, or are cognates for the word atypical. This is likely because these words come from a similar origin or the same root. Often when words have the same origin, they will look and sound similar. This list of translations for the word atypical is provided by Word Sense.

  • French: atypique‎
  • Danish: atypisk‎
  • Catalan: atípic‎
  • Estonian: ebatüüpiline‎
  • Swedish: atypisk‎
  • Spanish: atípico‎
  • Romanian: atipic‎ (masc.) (n), netipic‎ (masc.) (n), neconform‎ (masc.) (n)
  • Italian: atipico‎
  • Finnish: epätyypillinen‎, epätavallinen‎
  • German: atypisch‎
  • Portuguese: atípico‎

How can the word atypical be used in a sentence?

The word atypical can be used in numerous different ways to refer to something that is outside the realm of normalcy. This can either be a good thing or a bad thing, but atypical most often has a negative connotation. In this first example, Rhonda has just returned from the doctor’s office. Her husband Ji greets her.

Jim: Hi honey, how was your appointment?

Rhonda: Not great. The doctor said she got back some atypical test results. They’re going to do more testing but they might have to do a small surgery.

Jim: It’s all going to be okay, I promise. Atypical doesn’t always mean scary. It means whatever it is, they caught it early.

Rhonda: You’re right.

Here, Rhonda uses the word atypical to refer to her test results which came back slightly different than what is considered normal by medical standards. This worries Rhonda. In this next example, Rhonda is teaching a class on art history.

Rhonda: As you’ll see here, the painter was creating things that were far different than the other painters of his time. His work was so atypical that he was shunned in his day, but today, we look back on and think about how unique he was. 

Student: Do you think that will happen with artists today? 

Rhonda: Absolutely: The people we all think are making “weird” art now are going to be remembered as geniuses in 100 years because they’re doing something different.

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word atypical?

There are many different words that one can use in place of the word atypical. These are known as synonyms. Synonyms are very  useful to know if you want to avoid repeating yourself or if you are trying to expand your vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word atypical is provided by Thesaurus

  • unexpected
  • preternatural
  • strange
  • off-color
  • anomalistic
  • abnormal
  • funny
  • unusual
  • exceptional
  • irregular
  • unorthodox
  • gross
  • extraordinary
  • out of line
  • curious
  • queer
  • odd
  • peculiar
  • divergent
  • weird
  • aberrant
  • bizarre
  • grody
  • uncommon
  • deviate
  • screwy
  • anomalous
  • spastic
  • deviating
  • fantastic
  • unnatural
  • eccentric
  • heteromorphic
  • off-base
  • deviant
  • heterodox
  • heteroclite

There are also a variety of words that mean the opposite of the word atypical. These are called antonyms. Antonyms are also useful to know if you are trying to expand your vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word atypical is also provided by Thesaurus

  • representative
  • essential
  • quintessential
  • regular
  • habitual
  • ideal
  • emblematic
  • orthodox
  • suggestive
  • normal
  • matter-of-course
  • exemplary
  • symbolic
  • commonplace
  • classic
  • classical
  • ordinary
  • in keeping
  • stock
  • prevalent
  • illustrative
  • standard
  • conventional
  • standardized
  • unexceptional
  • average
  • in character
  • archetypical
  • indicative
  • typical
  • prototypical
  • common
  • usual
  • expected
  • typic
  • old hat
  • patterned
  • characteristic
  • archetypal
  • natural
  • paradigmatic
  • prototypal
  • everyday
  • general
  • model

What is the origin of the word atypical?

According to Etymonline, the word atypical has been used since the year 1847 to refer to things that are outside the realm of normally. This uses the prefix a meaning not and the root word typical. According to Etymonline, the word typical has been used since the year 1600 to refer to something that is symbolic or emblematic. This comes from the Medieval Latin typicalis which stems from the Late Latin typicus which meant of or pertaining to a type. This has its roots in the Greek typikos, from typos, meaning impression. Thiswas first used to describe a characteristic in the year 1850. Related words to typical include the adverb atypically. 

Overall, the word atypical is an adjective that is used to describe things or people that are outside the realm of normalcy. Anything that is irregular or unusual can be described as atypical.


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