adjective ex·em·pla·ry \ ig-ˈzem-plə-rē \
|Updated on: 5 Jul 2018

Definition of exemplary

1 a : deserving imitation : commendable
  • his courage was exemplary
; also : deserving imitation because of excellence
  • they serve exemplary pastries
  • —G. V. Higgins
b : serving as a pattern
2 : serving as an example, instance, or illustration
  • this story is exemplary of her style
3 : serving as a warning : monitory
  • given an exemplary punishment


play \ˌeg-ˌzem-ˈpler-ə-lē\ adverb


play \ig-ˈzem-plə-rē-nəs\ noun


play \ˌeg-ˌzem-ˈpler-ə-tē\ noun

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Examples of exemplary in a Sentence

  1. Each cantina has its own style, but almost all of them share several key traits: uniformed waiters offering exemplary service, a trio of musicians strolling from table to table playing songs on request, lots of men playing dominoes, plenty of good tequila and cold beer, and tasty home-cooked botanas (snacks) served free with each round of drinks. —Chris HumphreyNational Geographic TravelerSeptember 2008
  2. A few Hollywood couples stayed hitched—Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, 50 years and counting—but such exemplary marriages had less entertainment value than the connubial career of, say, Elizabeth Taylor, eight times wed and divorced, including two volatile turns with Richard Burton. —Richard CorlissTime28 Jan. 2008
  3. Among the most important factors that distinguished the best Civil War regiments from the mediocre ones were the quality and exemplary courage of their officers. —James M. McPhersonNew York Review of Books6 Oct. 2005
  4. as a hospital volunteer you have given exemplary service to your community

  5. armies have traditionally used public execution as an exemplary punishment for the crime of desertion

Recent Examples of exemplary from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'exemplary.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

An exemplary etymology

Since the 1500s, exemplary has been used in English for things deserving imitation. The word (and its close relatives example and exemplify) derives from the Latin noun exemplum, which means "example." Usage commentators have sometimes warned against using exemplary as if it were simply a synonym of excellent, but clear-cut instances of such usage are hard to come by. When exemplary describes something excellent, as it often does, it almost always carries the further suggestion that the thing described is worthy of imitation.

Origin and Etymology of exemplary

EXEMPLARY Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of exemplary for English Language Learners

  • : extremely good and deserving to be admired and copied

  • : serving as an example of something

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to grant as a privilege or special favor

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