No doubt you’ve lost count of the number of times the word “unprecedented” has come your way in the past few months. It’s a go-to word for newspaper headlines, concerned emails and earnest messages from CEOs, marketers and politicians.

Google Trends shows little interest in the meaning of “unprecedented” from 2004 until a brief time in September 2019. Then the term spiked in January 2020, surged again in March and hit a peak in late April.

Trends in 'unprecedented'


Thankfully, the use of unprecedented is dropping off, but I’ve run across so many examples, it’s clearly not going away anytime soon. Here are some of the examples I’ve run across in just a couple of weeks:

  • “Even though we are in the middle of an unprecedented crisis…”
  • “These are unprecedented times, and as a charity we are not alone…”
  • So many brands have been speaking out against racism as we go through this unprecedented period of civil unrest.”
  • “City seeing unprecedented dip in rents”
  • “We are in an unprecedented time and there’s unprecedented pressure on Ontario families.”
  • “The last several months have provided an unprecedented disruption in the ways people work at most companies across the world.”
  • “Windsor-area outbreak ‘unprecedented’”
  • “At a time when the world faces an unprecedented crisis brought on by COVID-19…”
  • “It shut down our economy for months, led to record unemployment levels and resulted in unprecedented stimulus packages from all levels of government.”

We get it. Life is anything but usual in a pandemic. But don’t you wish people would change it up sometimes? Here are some options:

For unprecedented as never before seen:

  1. In uncharted waters
  2. Incomparable
  3. Inconceivable (shades of The Princess Bride!)
  4. Like no other
  5. Never before seen
  6. Unequalled
  7. Unfamiliar
  8. Unheard-of
  9. Unimaginable
  10. Unlike any other
  11. Unmatched
  12. Unparalleled
  13. Unrivalled
  14. Without parallel
  15. Without precedent

    For unprecedented as out of the ordinary:

  16. Abnormal
  17. Bizarre
  18. Difficult and disruptive
  19. Exceptional
  20. Extraordinary
  21. Freakish
  22. Not remotely like
  23. Out of the ordinary
  24. Unusual/highly unusual
  25. Working without a GPS

    For unprecedented as surprising:

  26. Astonishing
  27. Amazing
  28. Beyond compare
  29. Remarkable
  30. Singular
  31. Strange
  32. Surprising
  33. Unbelievable
  34. Uncommon

Which one is your favourite? Do you have any other brilliant options? Let me know in the comments.

This post first appeared in the July issue of my newsletter. Wordnerdery is a quick read about words, effective/expressive writing, newsletters and more. Are you a subscriber yet? If yes, thanks for reading! If not, you can sign up right now. In keeping with Canada’s anti-spam laws and just plain good manners, you can easily unsubscribe any time.