As an adjective, perhaps because of encompassing several meanings, the word typical is one of those complicated words to me. I have always confronted with various applications of the word in many occasions and got used to utilize it or interpret it based on its situation in any sentence. But I have decided to make some examples here for its different meanings (at least based on my understanding) in order to define whether I have been correct in my interpretations so fat or not. So I wonder if you let me know how would you rephrase each one of these sentences or what does it means in each sentence below:

Example #1:

  • A typical working day, begins at 8 a.m. [To me the word "typical" in this sentence stands for "ordinary"]

Example #2:

  • His behavior is fairly typical of his generation. [to me it means: "His behavior is quite ordinary (nothing seems to be strange) in his behavior"] Moreover, I really don't know much about the meaning and the use of the structure typical of.

Example #3:

  • It is typical of men not to notice women changes in appearance often. (I would rephrase it as follows: "It is ordinary that men do not often notice changes of women in appearance. E.g. when they dye their eyebrows.) Also, I really don't know much about the meaning and the use of the structure typical of.

Example #4:

  • Tokyo is a typical example of a crowded place. [The word "typical" in this sentence means "good" to me.]

Example #5:

  • This meal is typical of local cookery. [Here, the word "typical" means "sample/example" to me. So I would interpret the whole sentence as follows: "This food is a sample / example of local cookery."

Note: although all dictionaries have had an attempt to provide many examples, but regarding this specific word, I think all of them have acted weakly and no explanation is clear-cut. So I wonder if you give me a hand to interpret it in an understandable way.


The word "typical" is derived from "type" (of course), and the dictionaries I checked mention "type" somewhere in their definitions of "typical".

Your proposed meaning of "ordinary" is fine, but it should be understood as "ordinary considering what category the thing is in (what its type is)."

So, when the doctor says a chest X-ray is "typical for a tuberculosis patient," he is not saying it is "ordinary". He means it is like most (tubercular) X-rays.

And if you are talking about an example of something, like in your #4 sentence, if the example is like most, then it's a "good" one. But that doesn't mean "typical" means "good".

The same goes for your sentence #5: That meal is like most (in the local cookery category).

The dictionaries I have looked at seem to get the idea of "typical" across pretty well (given that they write in dictionary-ese, and try to be concise, general, and accurate all a the same time.) For example, Merriam Webster's definition seems reasonable to me: "combining or exhibiting the essential characteristics of a group".

If you keep in mind that "typical" is derived from "type" and involves characteristics of a group, then "typical" isn't really such a complicated idea.

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