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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


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: 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

Example Sentences

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
One common characteristic of subsidy deals is overpromising benefits to create political support and to avoid hard oversight questions. Richard Mcgahey, Forbes, 10 Oct. 2022 Moreover, our intimate relationships with our smartphones pave the way for the personalized experience characteristic of the platform. WIRED, 6 Nov. 2022 Employers have struggled to recreate the same level of inclusivity and collaboration characteristic of fully in-person meetings within a remote work structure. Paolo Confino, Fortune, 12 July 2022 The idea is partially rooted in the notion that because of behavioral biases, investors tend to avoid the extremes of any variable or asset characteristic like valuation, so the extremes of an asset class are often underpriced. Derek Horstmeyer, WSJ, 2 July 2022 Combining the flexibility that employees want with the characteristic of Strong HR is a recipe for retention success. Quora, Forbes, 1 July 2022 Measuring two feet in height, the porcelain vase is embellished with a six-character seal mark characteristic of the Qianlong era (1736-1795) along its base, the auction house said. Sana Noor Haq, CNN, 18 May 2022 With concentration derived from mature, low-yielding vines, this 100 percent Graciano from Viña Pomal carries impressive density and power balanced by the mouth-watering acidity characteristic of Graciano. Sara L. Schneider, Robb Report, 14 Mar. 2022 Drop it in a soup, risotto or stew, and the rind melts and permeates the dish with its cheesy, umami characteristic. People Staff, Peoplemag, 24 Oct. 2022
One rung below, in the Politburo, the technology experts have backgrounds more characteristic of the up-and-coming generation. Karen Hao, WSJ, 18 Nov. 2022 In an outreach that would become characteristic of his long tenure to come, Morgenthau had forged a new alliance with the Bureau. Andrew Meier, Time, 14 Oct. 2022 This sort of ladder-like accumulation of mutations is something much more characteristic of how influenza evolves. Megan Molteni, STAT, 4 May 2022 More characteristic are views in which the ocean is unframed by land, and sometimes not even sky. Washington Post, 22 Apr. 2022 Trailing 34-28 at halftime, Arizona pulled within 37-35 four minutes into the second with a more characteristic offensive flow led by Tubelis. Bruce Pascoe, The Arizona Republic, 24 Mar. 2022 Four weeks ago, the Huskies struggled to win at Providence, 69-61, but with nearly all of their top players healthy and getting involved, this was a completely different, more characteristic game. Dom Amore,, 27 Feb. 2022 All this is characteristic of the work of its architect, Thom Mayne, winner of the Pritzker Prize, and his Los Angeles firm, Morphosis, with Brandon Welling the partner in charge. Michael J. Lewis, WSJ, 5 Nov. 2022 The ambiguity is characteristic of arch-villain architecture across the decades: no matter how ghoulish the behavior on display, some kind of oblique homage is being paid. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 27 Oct. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'characteristic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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 9 Dec. 2022.

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

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