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

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

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What does the word unorthodox mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary and Dictionary, the word unorthodox is an adjective that describes something that does not conform to traditional rules, traditions, or modes of conduct. Many different things can be described as unorthodox; someone with a quirky fashion sense could be described as having an unorthodox style. Someone who chooses to live as a nomad could have an unorthodox lifestyle in today’s day and age. Someone who believes in aliens might be said to have unorthodox views or unorthodox opinions. There is also an adverb form of the word unorthodox, unorthodoxly, which can describe things that are being done via unorthodox methods. Try using this English language word of the day or other new words in a sentence today!

There are numerous different languages that also contain words that mean unorthodox. You may notice that many of these look similar to the word unorthodox. This is likely because they share a common origin or root word. Often cognates, or words that have a similar spelling, sound, and meaning, are formed when words share an etymology. This list of translations for the word unorthodox is provided by Word Sense

  • Greek: ανορθόδοξος‎ (masc.)
  • Italian: inusuale‎, poco convenzionale‎, poco ortodosso‎, peculiare‎, eccentrico‎
  • Romanian: neortodox‎, neconvențional‎
  • Norwegian: uortodoks‎
  • German: unorthodox‎
  • Swedish: oortodox‎
  • Danish: uortodoks‎

What is the origin of the word unorthodox?

According to Etymonline, the word unorthodox has been used since the 1650s. This word was formed from the prefix un, meaning not, and the word orthodox. Etymonline states that the word orthodox has been used since the mid-15th century. This was used to refer to theological opinions or faith, and meant something that was true or correct in that context. The word orthodox comes from the Late Latin orthodoxus, from the Greek orthodoxos meaning “having the right opinion.” This comes from the Greek orthos meaning right, true, or straight along with the root doxa meaning opinion or praise. This comes from the Proto-Indo-European root dek meaning to take or accept. It has been used for other subjects beside religion or theology since the 1640s. It was used to mean pertaining to the Greek church by 1772. 

How can the word unorthodox be used in a sentence?

The word unorthodox can be used in many different contexts to describe things that are unconventional or straying from a traditional method or approach. In this example, Nadine is being critiqued on her final project for her fashion design course.

Nadine: What do you think?

Professor: Well, I think it’s very unorthodox, that’s for sure.

Nadine: Oh…

Professor: And I love it. I love the use of unconventional materials and construction. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, and it’s incredible. Well done, extremely well done.

Nadine: Really?!

Here, Nadine’s professor uses the word unorthodox to describe her fashion design. It is unlike anything the professor has seen before and brings a new, fresh, unorthodox approach to the construction of the garment. In this next example, Nadine is talking to her friend Gene about their post-college plans.

Nadine: I’m going to try and get a job at an advertising firm in downtown Seattle as a graphic designer. My professors are looking voer my portfolio so I can make sure it’s at its best before I start applying to jobs. What about you?

Gene: I’m going to buy a van and live off the grid for a year. 

Nadine: Wow!

Gene: Yeah, I know it’s a little unorthodox, but I’ve always wanted to take a year to just explore. 

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word unorthodox?

There are many different words that one can use in place of the word unorthodox. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning as another word or phrase. Synonyms are useful to know if you are trying not to repeat the same word in a speech or essay, as well as if you are trying to expand your vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word unorthodox is provided by Thesaurus.

  • contrasting
  • crazy
  • mismated
  • beatnik
  • various
  • kinky
  • opposed
  • mismatched
  • irregular
  • particular
  • poles apart
  • unusual
  • weird
  • unequal
  • unconventional
  • altered
  • variant
  • differential
  • uncustomary
  • colorful
  • at odds
  • flaky
  • incommensurable
  • divergent
  • deviating
  • unsimilar
  • unwonted
  • distinctive
  • heterodox
  • off the beaten path
  • distinct
  • changed
  • peculiar
  • at variance
  • other
  • different
  • a far cry from
  • dissimilar
  • like night and day
  • way-out
  • heretical
  • contradistinctive
  • schismatic
  • unlike
  • offbeat
  • diverse
  • eccentric
  • individual
  • antithetic
  • single
  • unrelated
  • inconsistent
  • sectarian
  • nonconformist
  • contrary
  • dissident
  • discrepant
  • otherwise
  • contrastive
  • contradistinct
  • clashing
  • disparate
  • far-out
  • distant
  • abnormal
  • unalike
  • divers
  • incomparable

There are also many different words that mean the opposite of the word unorthodox. These are known as antonyms. Antonyms are also  a useful English grammatical device to know if you are trying to expand your vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word unorthodox is provided by Thesaurus

  • correct
  • square
  • proper
  • regular
  • current
  • usual
  • wonted
  • fashionable
  • common
  • ritual
  • accepted
  • in established usage
  • plain
  • well-known
  • prevailing
  • ordinary
  • decorous
  • orthodox
  • everyday
  • conventional
  • general
  • routine
  • straight
  • tralatitious
  • formal
  • prevalent
  • traditional
  • stereotyped
  • button-down
  • popular
  • typical
  • predominant
  • customary
  • standard
  • commonplace
  • habitual
  • normal
  • accustomed
  • expected

Overall, the word unorthodox is an adjective that is used to describe things that are unconventional or outside the norm. This is a very versatile word that can be used to describe a great many things, from people, to fashion, and more.