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
Intersex people are born with characteristics of both sexes. Ian Max Stevenson, Idaho Statesman, 11 Feb. 2024 This characteristic, and their lack of a need for constant affection, is what attracted me to the breed. Richard Mann, Field & Stream, 8 Feb. 2024 Personalized lipsticks dressed their mouths in matte (a characteristic of the Prada runway since their first show in ‘88), pairing with orange powders and strong brows raised up to the pink slime dripping from their HQ’s ceiling. India Espy-Jones, Essence, 6 Feb. 2024 However, Weber said, for a long-term human presence on the moon, the site selection process could indeed factor in geographic characteristics such as proximity to tectonic features and terrain., The Mercury News, 1 Feb. 2024 Iowa’s civil rights law protects against discrimination in employment, wages, public accommodations, housing, education and credit practices based upon certain characteristics of a person. Hannah Fingerhut, Twin Cities, 31 Jan. 2024 The technology world can be, to its detriment, too analytical, sort of arrogant, and self-important, and those characteristics are anti-empathy. Phil Wahba, Fortune, 25 Jan. 2024 During the Apollo program, the Dish helped scientists translate transmissions to determine characteristics of the moon’s surface, Casper says. Kate Bradshaw, The Mercury News, 29 Jan. 2024 Those born in the Year of the Dragon are said to have characteristics such as confidence, intelligence, charisma and natural luck. Carlos Rico, San Diego Union-Tribune, 25 Jan. 2024
This characteristic irreverence and anti-clubbishness is what makes Jackson such an incisive cultural commentator as well as an uncompromising artist. Thomas Chatterton Williams, The Atlantic, 9 Feb. 2024 The instructions the brain is trying to send to the body struggle to get through, resulting in the characteristic tremors, rigidity, and freezing of gait seen in sufferers. Amit Katwala, WIRED, 8 Feb. 2024 But despite characteristic similarities, her route to the part was far from straightforward. Sandy Thin, CNN, 8 Feb. 2024 And thanks to Netflix’s characteristic largesse, the film has also become impossible to ignore. Vulture, 3 Feb. 2024 Note the paleness of the bird instead of the characteristic deep pink the species is known for. Taylor Piephoff, Charlotte Observer, 31 Jan. 2024 Musk reacted to McCormick’s ruling with characteristic truculence. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 31 Jan. 2024 Thriving on its characteristic sound, reminiscent of the band’s beginnings, the Pan-American group highlights the beauty of live instruments through a rustic tropipop production, enriched with violin arrangements. Leila Cobo, Billboard, 26 Jan. 2024 These are incremental updates, but that’s characteristic of Google’s approach to SGE, where the company has been dogfooding some of its latest and most advanced AI search features before deploying them more widely. Lauren Goode, WIRED, 17 Jan. 2024 See More

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 23 Feb. 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!