Why 'exceptional' contains the meaning of 'outstanding' but 'exception' only means 'not included'? Same sample of 'provision' vs 'provisional'. So does a noun appended 'al' would usually get a totally different meaning?

Normally we can get a word's meaning if we understand their radical meaning. For example 'use' vs 'useful'.

  • 1
    This is how I think of it and it makes sense. Exception means a thing or a person that is excluded. So we think of that excluded person or thing as somehow unique, great, or special that that thing or person stands out from the rest, it sets the person/thing apart. That's why when you say something is exceptional means that is extraordinary. – Ghaith Alrestom Jan 24 '16 at 8:46

A different, but related meaning

adjectives with -al means relating or pertaining to

exceptional - something which is an exception to the rest (usually but not necessarily good)
provisional - something which is a provision

nouns with an -al suffix means act or process of


  • 2
    This is true, but exceptional behaves in peculiar ways: it's typically reserved for something exceptionally good. For example, if I was teaching a class of 10 average students along with one brilliant student, I might tell my colleagues that I have an "exceptional" student in my class. However, if I had 10 average students and one failing student, I would not call that one student "exceptional" – even though technically that one floundering student is just as much of an "exception" as the brilliant kid. – J.R. Jan 24 '16 at 11:36
  • @JR +1 Have incorporated your comment into the answer. Would you consider today's snow storm exceptional? – Peter Jan 24 '16 at 11:47
  • If you are in the snow removal business, then business is exceptionally good. :^) (As a more serious answer, I'd be more inclined to call this an exceptionally severe snow storm, rather than an exceptional snow storm – although the latter would not be "incorrect". But these idiosyncrasies of language are what keep me interested in ELL; it's stuff I don't even notice or think about until they get discussed here.) – J.R. Jan 24 '16 at 11:52
  • @J.R. Why would you think exceptionally is "incorrect"? It's an adv. in oxford dictionary. I also think it's a more properly way to describe the severity level of a snow storm. – NeilWang Jan 25 '16 at 3:09

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