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Abnormal vs. Unnormal — What's the Difference?

By Urooj Arif & Fiza Rafique — Updated on March 31, 2024
Abnormal refers to deviating from what is normal or typical, often implying a negative connotation, whereas unnormal is less commonly used and lacks a precise definition in standard English.
Abnormal vs. Unnormal — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Abnormal and Unnormal


Key Differences

Abnormal is typically used to describe something that is not usual, typical, or regular, often implying that it is undesirable or problematic. It is a term frequently used in medical, psychological, and statistical contexts to indicate deviation from the norm. Whereas unnormal, though understood to mean not normal by its prefix and root, is not widely recognized or used in formal English. It may appear in casual or creative language to emphasize a departure from what is considered normal without the negative connotations often associated with abnormal.
Abnormal can imply a significant deviation that might necessitate intervention or correction, such as abnormal test results or abnormal behavior. This usage often carries an implication of desirability towards the norm. On the other hand, unnormal is seldom found in authoritative texts and might be employed for stylistic reasons or in informal contexts to denote something as out of the ordinary without suggesting a need for correction.
In terms of linguistic preference, abnormal is the standard adjective used by professionals across various fields to describe deviations from the expected or healthy pattern. Whereas unnormal, due to its rarity and nonstandard status, might be chosen for its novelty or to avoid the medical or technical implications of abnormal.
The connotations of abnormal can vary widely depending on the context, sometimes suggesting a curiosity or even superiority, as in the case of abnormal intelligence. On the other hand, unnormal, when used, might be chosen specifically to avoid these varied and nuanced connotations, aiming for a neutral expression of difference.
Given its establishment in the lexicon, abnormal has a clear, understood range of usage, from the slightly unusual to the profoundly atypical. Unnormal, lacking a clear definition and standard usage, serves as a more ambiguous expression of nonconformity, which can be a limitation or a strength depending on the speaker’s intent.

Comparison Chart


Deviating from what is normal or typical, often with negative connotations.
Not recognized in standard English; informally used to mean not normal.


Common in medical, psychological, and technical contexts.
Rare, mostly found in casual or creative language.


Often negative, suggesting a deviation that may be undesirable or requiring correction.
Neutral, emphasizing deviation without inherent negative implications.

Linguistic Preference

Widely accepted and used by professionals.
Seldom used, considered nonstandard.

Implications of Deviation

Suggests a range from slight to profound deviation, possibly needing intervention.
Implies deviation without suggesting the degree or need for intervention.

Compare with Definitions


Deviating from the usual or typical.
The patient showed abnormal signs, prompting further tests.


Markedly different from the average.
Their unnormal strategy paid off in the end.


Not conforming to the standard.
Abnormal weather patterns have been observed recently.


Not following the common pattern.
The unnormal silence in the usually bustling market was eerie.


Out of the ordinary in a significant way.
Her performance was abnormal, far exceeding her peers.


Not adhering to what is considered normal.
The artist’s style was distinctly unnormal, captivating the audience.


Describing a significant deviation from a norm.
Abnormal growth rates in the species were documented.


Expressing a deviation from the expected without specifying the nature.
The mood in the room shifted to something decidedly unnormal.


Unusual in a way that might be unsettling or requires correction.
His abnormal interest in the topic raised eyebrows.


Lacking conformity to the usual.
His approach to problem-solving is refreshingly unnormal.


Deviating from what is normal or usual, typically in a way that is undesirable or worrying
The illness is recognizable from the patient's abnormal behaviour


Not normal.


Not typical, usual, or regular; not normal; deviant.


Not conforming to rule or system; deviating from the usual or normal type.


Of or pertaining to that which is irregular, in particular, behaviour that deviates from norms of social propriety or accepted standards of mental health.


A person or object that is not normal.


Not conformed to rule or system; deviating from the type; anomalous; irregular.


Not normal; not typical or usual or regular or conforming to a norm;
Abnormal powers of concentration
Abnormal amounts of rain
Abnormal circumstances
An abnormal interest in food


Departing from the normal in e.g. intelligence and development;
They were heartbroken when they learned their child was abnormal
An abnormal personality


Much greater than the normal;
Abnormal profits
Abnormal ambition

Common Curiosities

Is unnormal a real word?

Unnormal is understood but is not widely recognized or used in formal English.

Why is unnormal used less frequently than abnormal?

Unnormal is less used due to its nonstandard status and lack of clear definition compared to the well-established term abnormal.

Do abnormal and unnormal mean the same thing?

While both suggest deviation from the norm, abnormal is a standard term with specific connotations, and unnormal is nonstandard and more neutral.

What does abnormal mean?

Abnormal means deviating from what is normal or typical, often implying a negative connotation.

How do abnormal and unnormal differ in usage?

Abnormal is commonly used in medical, psychological, and technical contexts, whereas unnormal is mostly found in informal or creative language.

Why might someone choose to use unnormal over abnormal?

Someone might choose unnormal to avoid the negative connotations or specific implications of abnormal, aiming for a neutral expression of difference.

Is it appropriate to use unnormal in formal writing?

Unnormal is considered nonstandard and is best avoided in formal writing.

What impact does the choice between abnormal and unnormal have on communication?

Using abnormal can convey a clearer, more specific message, while unnormal may introduce ambiguity or a less conventional perspective.

Can abnormal have positive connotations?

Yes, in certain contexts, abnormal can imply superiority or exceptional qualities, such as abnormal intelligence.

Can something be abnormal but not negative?

Yes, abnormal can describe deviations that are neutral or even positive, depending on the context.

How does the rarity of unnormal affect its perception?

The rarity of unnormal can make it seem novel or ambiguous, which can be appealing in creative contexts but less so in formal or technical discourse.

What contexts might favor the use of unnormal?

Unnormal might be used in creative writing or informal speech to express deviation from the norm without negative implications.

How do professionals typically describe deviations from the norm?

Professionals usually use the term abnormal to describe deviations, due to its precise connotations and established usage.

Can the choice of abnormal versus unnormal reflect on the speaker’s intent?

Yes, choosing abnormal might reflect an intent to emphasize deviation as problematic or noteworthy, while unnormal might signal a desire to express deviation without judgment.

Can the use of abnormal imply a need for correction?

Yes, in many contexts, describing something as abnormal suggests it might be undesirable or require intervention.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.
Co-written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.

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