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Excellent vs. Outstanding: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 28, 2023
"Excellent" denotes very good quality or high standard, while "outstanding" suggests remarkably good and standing out from others.

Key Differences

"Excellent" refers to a very high level of quality or performance, indicating something is extremely good within its category. It is an adjective used to describe something that meets or surpasses the expected standard. An excellent student, for example, consistently achieves high marks. On the other hand, "outstanding" often implies that something is noticeable or striking because it is so much better than others. An outstanding student might not only achieve high marks but also exhibits extraordinary characteristics that distinguish them from their peers.
In terms of performance, something excellent fulfills all necessary criteria to a high standard. For instance, an excellent performance in a play would mean that all actors delivered their lines effectively and the production met the anticipated professionalism. However, an outstanding performance suggests that it went above and beyond excellence; it was memorable and surpassed expectations to the point of being exceptional.
When considering accomplishments, "excellent" can be seen as a high level of achievement that satisfies all indicators of success. This could apply to a work project completed proficiently and on time. In contrast, "outstanding" achievements are those that not only meet all markers of success but also bring something extra to the table, perhaps innovating or improving the project in an unexpected and beneficial way.
In academic grading, "excellent" might correspond to an 'A' grade, which signifies that the student has met all the learning objectives with very high quality. "Outstanding," however, could be used to describe the highest possible achievement or recognition in a field, such as a prestigious scholarship or award, suggesting that the recipient has surpassed even the top expectations.
Within a professional setting, an excellent worker is one who consistently meets their job requirements with high quality. They are reliable and proficient. Conversely, an outstanding worker is one who not only fulfills their job role but also adds unique value to the organization, perhaps through leadership, innovation, or significantly influencing positive changes.

Comparison Chart

Level of quality

Very high within its category
Exceptionally high and notable


Common in high achievers
Less common, implies rarity


Relative to expectations
Relative to others' performance


Acknowledged success
Acknowledged distinction


Superior quality or ability
Superior quality or ability that is notable and distinguished

Excellent and Outstanding Definitions


Extremely good or superior in some way.
The chef prepared an excellent meal.


Conspicuously excellent; noticeably superior.
His contributions to research are outstanding.


Very good of its kind.
His excellent performance earned him a promotion.


Exceptionally good.
The lead actress gave an outstanding performance.


Admirable, very commendable.
The team did an excellent job on the project.


Not settled or resolved.
There are several outstanding issues that need addressing.


Of the highest or finest quality.
She has an excellent command of the language.


Unpaid or unfulfilled.
He still has outstanding debts.


Deserving of the highest esteem.
The museum’s collection is truly excellent.


Standing out among others due to excellence.
She was an outstanding figure in the field of biology.


Of the highest or finest quality; exceptionally good for its kind
Enjoyed an excellent meal at the restaurant.


Excellent or exceptionally good
An outstanding essay that received an A+.


(Archaic) Being so to an extreme degree.


Noticeable or conspicuous
"Thiamine deficiency alone generally produces peripheral neuritis and numbness as its most outstanding features" (Vernon H. Mark).


What does 'outstanding' mean?

'Outstanding' means exceptionally good or standing out significantly from the rest.

Can 'excellent' and 'outstanding' be used interchangeably?

They can be used similarly, but 'outstanding' often implies a higher level of distinction.

What does 'excellent' mean?

'Excellent' means very good or of a very high quality.

Is 'excellent' the highest compliment?

'Excellent' is a high compliment, but 'outstanding' often suggests a higher level of praise.

Is 'outstanding' always positive?

Mostly, yes, but it can also mean unresolved or unpaid, as in 'outstanding bills.'

What is an example of 'excellent' work?

An error-free report delivered on time is an example of excellent work.

Does 'outstanding' mean unique?

'Outstanding' can imply uniqueness, especially if the distinction is due to rare qualities.

What's an 'outstanding' feature in a product?

A feature that significantly enhances the product’s usefulness or appeal is outstanding.

How do I use 'excellent' in a sentence?

"The service at the hotel was excellent."

Can a student be 'outstanding' in a regular class?

Yes, if they demonstrate exceptional qualities or achievements within that class.

Does 'excellent' imply perfection?

Not necessarily; it implies a very high standard but not absolute perfection.

Are 'excellent' and 'outstanding' subjective?

Yes, the use of 'excellent' and 'outstanding' can be subjective and dependent on personal standards.

Is 'outstanding' a common grade in education?

'Outstanding' is sometimes used as a grade in education to indicate exceptional performance.

Can 'outstanding' refer to debts?

Yes, 'outstanding' can refer to debts that are yet to be paid.

Can a product be 'outstanding'?

Yes, if it is exceptionally better than similar products in the market.

Can services be 'excellent' or 'outstanding'?

Yes, services can be described as either, depending on their quality and distinction.

What is an example of 'outstanding' work?

A report that provides groundbreaking insights in addition to being error-free is outstanding.

Is 'excellent' used in formal evaluations?

Yes, 'excellent' is often used in formal evaluations to denote high achievement.

How do I use 'outstanding' in a sentence?

"Her academic achievements are outstanding."

Can something be 'excellent' but not 'outstanding'?

Yes, it can be of high quality ('excellent') without being notably superior to others ('outstanding').
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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