1 of 2


char·​ac·​ter·​is·​tic ˌker-ik-tə-ˈri-stik How to pronounce characteristic (audio)
: a distinguishing trait, quality, or property
the characteristics of this breed of dog
: the integral part of a common logarithm
: the smallest positive integer n which for an operation in a ring or field yields 0 when any element is used n times with the operation


2 of 2


: revealing, distinguishing, or typical of an individual character
a poetic style characteristic of the epic
characteristically adverb
Choose the Right Synonym for characteristic

characteristic, individual, peculiar, distinctive mean indicating a special quality or identity.

characteristic applies to something that distinguishes or identifies a person or thing or class.

responded with her characteristic wit

individual stresses qualities that distinguish one from all other members of the same kind or class.

a highly individual writing style

peculiar applies to qualities possessed only by a particular individual or class or kind and stresses rarity or uniqueness.

an eccentricity that is peculiar to the British

distinctive indicates qualities distinguishing and uncommon and often superior or praiseworthy.

a distinctive aura of grace and elegance

Examples of characteristic in a Sentence

Noun the ability to fashion tools and other characteristics that distinguish human beings from other animals Adjective He responded to their comments with characteristic good humor. the characteristic taste of licorice
Recent Examples on the Web
Countless psychology experiments showcase this innate characteristic of cognition. Brian Klaas, The Atlantic, 10 Apr. 2024 From the street, Russell Brown’s 100-year-old home in Hollywood would seem to have all the characteristics of a historic Craftsman: gabled roofs, warm green earth-tone shingles and a covered porch that leads to the front door. Lisa Boone, Los Angeles Times, 9 Apr. 2024 See all Example Sentences for characteristic 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'characteristic.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



see character entry 1


see character entry 1

First Known Use


1646, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1647, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of characteristic was in 1646

Dictionary Entries Near characteristic

Cite this Entry

“Characteristic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
char·​ac·​ter·​is·​tic ˌkar-ik-tə-ˈris-tik How to pronounce characteristic (audio)
: a special quality or appearance that makes an individual or group different from others


2 of 2 adjective
: typical of an individual or group
characteristically adverb

Medical Definition


1 of 2 adjective
char·​ac·​ter·​is·​tic ˌkar-ik-tə-ˈris-tik How to pronounce characteristic (audio)
: serving to reveal and distinguish the individual character
characteristically adverb


2 of 2 noun
: a distinguishing trait, quality, or property

More from Merriam-Webster on characteristic

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!