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[ik-sep-shuh-nl] /ɪkˈsɛp ʃə nl/
forming an exception or rare instance; unusual; extraordinary:
The warm weather was exceptional for January.
unusually excellent; superior:
an exceptional violinist.
  1. being intellectually gifted.
  2. being physically or especially mentally disabled to an extent that special schooling is required.
Origin of exceptional
1840-50; exception + -al1
Related forms
exceptionality, noun
exceptionally, adverb
exceptionalness, noun
nonexceptional, adjective
nonexceptionally, adverb
preexceptional, adjective
preexceptionally, adverb
quasi-exceptional, adjective
quasi-exceptionally, adverb
superexceptional, adjective
superexceptionally, adverb
Can be confused
exceptionable, exceptional.
1. uncommon, singular, strange, unnatural, aberrant, anomalous. See irregular.
2. average. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for exceptional
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • But it is from this very period of exceptional stability that we obtain our only scale for measuring the rate of organic change.

    Island Life Alfred Russel Wallace
  • His next move proved that his cunning was of an exceptional order.

    Thoroughbreds W. A. Fraser
  • The girl was beyond question a most rare and exceptional medium.

    From Out the Vasty Deep Mrs. Belloc Lowndes
  • But then he is an exceptional and note-worthy man--one among ten thousand.

    In the Valley Harold Frederic
  • It is curious that these three exceptional stones lie on the same horizonal line, having all the same specific gravity, 3.5.

British Dictionary definitions for exceptional


forming an exception; not ordinary
having much more than average intelligence, ability, or skill
Derived Forms
exceptionally, 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
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Word Origin and History for exceptional

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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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