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or·​di·​nary ˈȯr-də-ˌner-ē How to pronounce ordinary (audio)
: of a kind to be expected in the normal order of events : routine, usual
an ordinary day
: of common quality, rank, or ability
an ordinary teenager
: deficient in quality : poor, inferior
ordinary wine
: having or constituting immediate or original jurisdiction
also : belonging to such jurisdiction
ordinariness noun


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plural ordinaries
: the regular or customary condition or course of things
usually used in the phrase out of the ordinary
We haven't done anything out of the ordinary.
: a prelate exercising original jurisdiction over a specified territory or group
The ordinary of a diocese is a bishop.
: a clergyman appointed formerly in England to attend condemned criminals
: a judge of probate in some states of the U.S.
often capitalized : the parts of the Mass that do not vary from day to day
The "Our Father" is part of the ordinary of the Mass.
British : a meal served to all comers at a fixed price
chiefly British : a tavern or eating house serving regular meals
: a common heraldic charge (such as the bend) of simple form (see charge entry 2 sense 7a)
Choose the Right Synonym for ordinary

common, ordinary, plain, familiar, popular, vulgar mean generally met with and not in any way special, strange, or unusual.

common implies usual everyday quality or frequency of occurrence

a common error
lacked common honesty

and may additionally suggest inferiority or coarseness.

common manners

ordinary stresses conformance in quality or kind with the regular order of things.

an ordinary pleasant summer day
a very ordinary sort of man

plain is likely to suggest homely simplicity.

plain hard-working people

familiar stresses the fact of being generally known and easily recognized.

a familiar melody

popular applies to what is accepted by or prevalent among people in general sometimes in contrast to upper classes or special groups.

a writer of popular romances

vulgar, otherwise similar to popular, is likely to carry derogatory connotations (as of inferiority or coarseness).

souvenirs designed to appeal to the vulgar taste

Examples of ordinary in a Sentence

Adjective They've had the ordinary problems associated with starting a new business. My wife thought our guide was strange, but he seemed perfectly ordinary to me. The meal was ordinary and uninspired.
Recent Examples on the Web
Shutting down highways, meanwhile, has been an indispensable tactic in civil rights and racial justice organizing in the U.S. since the 1960s, a way for ordinary people to flex their economic muscle outside of the workplace. Claire Ravenscroft, The New Republic, 21 Sep. 2023 During frequent video meetings with members before the strike, Mr. Fain has portrayed the negotiations as a broader struggle pitting ordinary workers against corporate titans. Noam Scheiber, New York Times, 19 Sep. 2023 Electric vehicles are much less complicated than ordinary cars. The Editors, National Review, 18 Sep. 2023 Shuffle of Russian military chiefs preceded death of Wagner boss Prigozhin The apparent asset stripping at the country’s largest retail bank left some 20 million ordinary citizens at risk of losing their life’s savings. David L. Stern, Washington Post, 17 Sep. 2023 Both rarities have transcended the ordinary with incredible precision and magnificent style. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 14 Sep. 2023 The goal, Mitnick said, is to get on the radar of Danaher’s shareholders, board members, employees, and pension fund investors — in addition to ordinary people. Lizzy Lawrence and Ed Silverman, STAT, 14 Sep. 2023 Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich (2013) This kaleidoscopic account of the fall of the Soviet Union consists entirely of stories told to the author by quote-unquote ordinary people. The Week Staff, The Week, 2 Sep. 2023 The show follows the curiosity of Wilson, a New York City resident looking for advice on ordinary subjects such as improving your memory or watching a sports game. Sonia Rao, Washington Post, 2 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'ordinary.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English ordinarie, from Latin ordinarius, from ordin-, ordo order


Middle English ordinarie, from Anglo-French & Medieval Latin; Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin ordinarius, from Latin ordinarius, adjective

First Known Use


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2a(1)

Time Traveler
The first known use of ordinary was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near ordinary

Cite this Entry

“Ordinary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ordinary. Accessed 24 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
or·​di·​nary ˈȯrd-ᵊn-ˌer-ē How to pronounce ordinary (audio)
plural ordinaries
: regular or usual condition or course of things
nothing out of the ordinary
British : a meal served to any person at a fixed price
chiefly British : a restaurant serving regular meals


2 of 2 adjective
: to be expected : normal, usual
ordinary problems
: neither good nor bad : average
an ordinary person

Legal Definition


: of a kind to be expected from the average person or in the normal course of events
broadly : of a common kind or degree
an ordinary proceeding
compare extraordinary

More from Merriam-Webster on ordinary

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