The idea of phenotypic novelty appears throughout the evolutionary literature. Novelties have been defined so broadly as to make the term meaningless and so narrowly as to apply only to a limited number of spectacular structures. Here I examine some of the available definitions of phenotypic novelty and argue that the modern synthesis is ill equipped at explaining novelties. I then discuss three frameworks that may help biologists get a better insight of how novelties arise during evolution but warn that these frameworks should be considered in addition to, and not as potential substitutes of, the modern synthesis. †To contact the author, please write to: Departments of Ecology and Evolution and Philosophy, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794; e‐mail: [email protected].