Noun – Anomaly
“Anomaly” comes through Latin, but it has Greek roots.
You can see how it literally means “(something that’s) not the same.” The “a-” part means “not,” and the “nom” part comes from homos, “same.”
An anomaly is something that’s irregular or unusual, compared to whatever is normal, common, or expected.
In other words, anomalies are things that stand out because they seem weird or unexpected.
Part of speech:
Noun, the countable kind: “that low score was an anomaly for her,” “they’re searching for anomalies in the genes.”
Other forms that might come in handy:
anomalies, anomalous, anomalously, anomalousness
how to use it:
This formal, common word has a scientific tone.
To refer to something as an anomaly is to imply that people have been precise in measuring or keeping track of patterns. And because “anomaly” sounds so accurate and scientific, we find it often in science fiction–like on Star Trek, where episodes might be driven by some spatial, temporal, or gravitational anomaly.
Call something an anomaly when it departs from the normal, common, expected pattern. In other words, if you didn’t predict it and you can’t explain it, you might dismiss it as an anomaly.
“This white squirrel is an anomaly among its brown kin.” “We found several anomalies in the data; going back, we found they were caused by typos.” “The team’s terrible performance today is an anomaly; it’s been a great season for them otherwise.”
A person, too, can be called an anomaly. Here’s Colton Wooten for the New Yorker: “As the biracial child of a single mother, I was an anomaly in the suburbs of Raleigh.”
“I first interviewed Ms. [Jennifer] Lee in 2015 for a New York Times Magazine article on the dearth of female directors. Many of the women I interviewed were sad, angry and bitter about the way they were treated and the work they lost out on. But Ms. Lee was an anomaly, happy and positive about her future.”
— Maureen Dowd, New York Times, 7 November 2019
“In taking on his biggest budget film to date, [James] Gray also wanted to bring a scale of not only of size and scope but of emotions as well. The result is a movie that is an anomaly in contemporary Hollywood, a journey through space and into the self, an exciting adventure tale with a startling and deceptive depth.”
— Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times, 20 September 2019