The word “ordinary”, ordinar, in my language has all meanings I have found in English dictionaries. In mathematics too an ordinary ratio means “fractie ordinara”.

Additionally, in my language it has a very offensive meaning too, that is if you call someone: “You are an ordinary! or: You are an ordinary man!” (used as both noun and adjective) would be the equivalent of: “You are a scoundrel, a son of a bitch that is a worthless person, of the lowest conduct, one who has no scruples, if any at all. We even avoid using this word, not to be mistaken, and rather choose customary or regular or usual.

I would like to know whether in English this word may have a similar connotation.

I am concerned whether it is safe to say ordinary people, ordinary product, object, etc.

  • Ordinary has no such connotation in English. Mar 10, 2014 at 9:19
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    @MaulikV "Lacking special distinction" is hardly the same thing as "worthless son of a bitch". In My Fair Lady Higgins sings "I'm just an ordinary man". Ordinary doesn't mean "inferior", it means "neither better nor worse", just like everybody else. Nothing is lacking which is expected. Mar 10, 2014 at 9:23
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    I think some definitions of "common" might have a similar connotation as "ordinary" in your native language, although it's not very insulting in English. collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/american/common
    – ColleenV
    Feb 7, 2015 at 23:05
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    "Ordinary" does not have the meanings you seek. However, English does have several words that originally meant "average" or "Silesian" or "village-related" that can have the meanings you seek. In order from least bad to worse, they are: mediocre, mean, sleazy, vile.
    – Jasper
    Feb 7, 2015 at 23:35
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    There's also "mundane," which can have connotations ranging from "without magic" to "dull-minded, petty, pointless" depending on the sub-community and context of the usage.
    – A.Beth
    Feb 8, 2015 at 4:58

3 Answers 3


I must dissent from Maulik V's statement that an ordinary person is one who does not have a quality that you “expect”. On the contrary, an ordinary person has exactly the qualities you expect in everyone, no more, no less.

In any case, ordinary has (ordinarily) no offensive connotation, unless you are specifically denying someone some excellence he has claimed to possess—and in that case the offense lies in the denial, not in the term ordinary.

  • Well, I answered keeping the context in mind. *Don't gift that super gadget to Jack. That gadget is not for an ordinary person. Here, ordinary certainly means that I don't consider Jack having the qualities I expect him to have to use that gadget.
    – Maulik V
    Mar 10, 2014 at 9:48
  • of course, the more thickly you lay on context and narrow the scope of the application, the more you can make absolutely any term insulting.
    – N. Presley
    Dec 5, 2017 at 2:17

The term 'ordinary people' has been used to define the average person in the UK by speakers, such as politicians and those in the media attempting to defend the rights of those who are not in exceptional circumstances of wealth, power or influence. However, I find this description inaccurate and frustrating as well as tacitly condescending. Someone living an ordinary life can still display extraordinary abilities or possess traits more commendable than of those with money or fame. It is a person's circumstances that are ordinary not the person. A more accurate and less derogatory (to my mind at least) would be to say a person is living an ordinary life.


Yes, one of the meanings of the word ordinary is a person does not have quality that you'd expect. In your context, it means that the person has qualities that are not up to the mark (or expectation) of the speaker. Nevertheless, ordinary does not refer to those offensive remarks.

ordinary (adj) - lacking special distinction, rank, or status

If you find ordinary word that way (though it is not) here are the alternatives -

a common person/a commoner; or an average person

  • You can certainly use ordinary but if you still want to avoid ambiguity, you may use an average person.
    – Maulik V
    Mar 10, 2014 at 9:46
  • "Ordinary", "common", and "average" are about equally likely to be insulting, in practice — not very likely, but you can't really avoid the small chance of offending someone just by switching to one of the other synonyms. (If anything, "ordinary" may even be the least objectionable by a small margin.) Jan 5, 2016 at 20:57

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