eccentric

1 of 2

adjective

ec·​cen·​tric ik-ˈsen-trik How to pronounce eccentric (audio)
ek-
1
a
: deviating from conventional or accepted usage or conduct especially in odd or whimsical ways
an eccentric millionaire
b
: deviating from an established or usual pattern or style
eccentric products
2
a
: deviating from a circular path
especially : elliptical sense 1
an eccentric orbit
b
: located elsewhere than at the geometric center
also : having the axis or support so located
an eccentric wheel
eccentrically adverb

eccentric

2 of 2

noun

1
: a person who behaves in odd or unusual ways : an eccentric person
2
: a mechanical device consisting of an eccentric (see eccentric entry 1 sense 2b) disk communicating its motion to a rod so as to produce reciprocating motion

Did you know?

Eccentric was originally a technical term at home in the fields of geometry and astronomy. It comes from a Latin word meaning “not having the earth at its center,” and ultimately has its root in a Greek word with various meanings including “stationary point of a pair of compasses” and “midpoint of a circle or sphere.” But its figurative use is long-established too: as far back as the 17th century the word was used to describe people and things that deviate from what is conventional, usual, or accepted.

Choose the Right Synonym for eccentric

strange, singular, unique, peculiar, eccentric, erratic, odd, quaint, outlandish mean departing from what is ordinary, usual, or to be expected.

strange stresses unfamiliarity and may apply to the foreign, the unnatural, the unaccountable.

a journey filled with strange sights

singular suggests individuality or puzzling strangeness.

a singular feeling of impending disaster

unique implies singularity and the fact of being without a known parallel.

a career unique in the annals of science

peculiar implies a marked distinctiveness.

the peculiar status of America's First Lady

eccentric suggests a wide divergence from the usual or normal especially in behavior.

the eccentric eating habits of preschoolers

erratic stresses a capricious and unpredictable wandering or deviating.

a friend's suddenly erratic behavior

odd applies to a departure from the regular or expected.

an odd sense of humor

quaint suggests an old-fashioned but pleasant oddness.

a quaint fishing village

outlandish applies to what is uncouth, bizarre, or barbaric.

outlandish fashions of the time

Example Sentences

Adjective It was Charles Darwin's eccentric mathematician cousin Francis Galton who in 1874 ignited the nature-nurture controversy.  … Matt Ridley, Time, 2 June 2003 Eccentric drifters that normally roam the farthest reaches of the solar system, these daredevils fly so close to the Sun that they pass through its scorching corona. Maggie McKee, Astronomy, December 2002 In the spit-and-polish Navy, he and his equally unkempt colleagues were regarded as eccentric. David M. Kennedy, Atlantic, March 1999 He was a kind but eccentric man. She's become more eccentric over the years. Noun It wasn't until she [Mother Teresa] had set up a leprosarium outside Calcutta on land provided by the government that I began to see her as an idealist rather than an eccentric. Bharati Mukherjee, Time, 14 June 1999 To his own townspeople Thoreau was a radical and an eccentric, a man without a vocation, supporting himself doing odd jobs, devoting himself to what seemed to them inconsequential rambles, and living like a hermit on the shores of Walden Pond. Maxine Kumin, In Deep, 1987 But Mozart was also an eccentric, brought up not as a creature of society but as a prodigious child speaking a language of sound. Mozart couldn't "handle people," as one former friend put it. Edward Rothstein, New York Times Book Review, 31 Oct. 1982 an eccentric who designed his house to look like a Scottish castle See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
The key portion of any RDL is the negative movement: slowing down the motion and maximizing the muscles' time under tension and eccentric contraction will be crucial in carving a shapelier butt. Philip Ellis, Men's Health, 20 Nov. 2022 Like its four-wheeled compatriot, the two-wheeled Italian brand has made its name creating loud, fast, uncompromising, occasionally eccentric and often achingly elegant machines. Jonathan Hawkins, CNN, 15 Nov. 2022 In a cast that features Scarlett Johannson, Danny Huston, Toni Collette, Michael Stuhlbarg, Ralph Macchio, and Jessica Biel, Hopkins stands tall, embodying the spirit of the eccentric and driven director. Robert English, EW.com, 10 Nov. 2022 Throughout the course of what’s become a legendary career, Danny Elfman has cultivated a reputation as a singular composer who decidedly doesn’t shy away from the fantastical and eccentric. Rob Ledonne, Billboard, 7 Nov. 2022 The third air sign, Aquarius, is best known as the eccentric and creative members of the zodiac. Zoey Lyttle, Peoplemag, 7 Nov. 2022 When considered in isolation, for example, a pull system for task assignment might come across as fiddly and eccentric. Cal Newport, The New Yorker, 2 Nov. 2022 Ira Sachs, the adventurous and eccentric real estate developer who landed in Park City in the 1970s to ski and ended up opening one of its landmark hotels, has died. Sean P. Means, The Salt Lake Tribune, 31 Oct. 2022 Jordan Peele welcomes adults and older kids alike into an eccentric and visually inventive new world filled with supernatural thrills, teen angst, humor and heart. Jen Yamatostaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 27 Oct. 2022
Noun
Skeptics lamented the end of trail running’s eccentric, community-centric culture, while optimists celebrated the likelihood of better race organization, standardized rules, and real prize money. Andy Cochrane, Outside Online, 21 Sep. 2022 Angela Lansbury is a tweedy country eccentric in wartime England, tootling around on a bronchitic sidecar motorbike and receiving mysterious parcels from a professor in London. Los Angeles Times, 12 Oct. 2022 Murnane, an Australian, is admittedly a bit of an eccentric, and culturally remote. Alex Shephard, The Atlantic, 5 Oct. 2022 Murray, a former SNL cast member himself, has long cultivated an image as an actor who can be hilarious, affecting, and eccentric — both on screen and off. Oliver Gettell, EW.com, 14 Oct. 2022 And Polsky, a protégé of Werner Herzog, has found a similarly daring eccentric in Cage, who clearly relished his part. Scott Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 11 Sep. 2022 Thom Browne is another designer that has leaned into the eccentric. José Criales-unzueta, Vogue, 18 Aug. 2022 Finally, bold Mercury squares eccentric Uranus, creating an erratic atmosphere that must be navigated with patience. Chicago Tribune, 27 July 2022 Slipping into a sheer trench coat, orange shirt-dress and pointed-toe calf-high boots, Mabel looks perfectly at home amongst both the stylish and the eccentric at Alice’s (Cara Delevingne) art gallery. Lauren Puckett-pope, ELLE, 7 Dec. 2020 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Adjective

borrowed from Medieval Latin ecentricus, excentricus "not concentric with another circle, (of a planetary orbit in Ptolemaic astronomy) not having the earth exactly at its center," from Late Latin eccentros, eccentrus "not having the earth at its center" (borrowed from Greek ékkentros, from ek- ec- + -kentros, adjective derivative of kéntron "sting, goad, point, stationary point of a pair of compasses, midpoint of a circle or sphere") + Latin -icus -ic entry 1 — more at center entry 1

Noun

Middle English excentryke "planetary orbit of which the earth is not the center," borrowed from Medieval Latin excentricus, noun derivative of ecentricus, excentricus "(of a planetary orbit in Ptolemaic astronomy) not having the earth exactly at its center" — more at eccentric entry 1

First Known Use

Adjective

circa 1630, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

Noun

1827, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of eccentric was circa 1630

Podcast

Dictionary Entries Near eccentric

Cite this Entry

“Eccentric.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/eccentric. Accessed 9 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

eccentric

1 of 2 adjective
ec·​cen·​tric ik-ˈsen-trik How to pronounce eccentric (audio)
ek-
1
a
: acting or thinking in an unusual way
b
: not of the usual or normal kind
2
: not following a truly circular path
an eccentric orbit
eccentrically adverb

eccentric

2 of 2 noun
: a strange or eccentric person

Medical Definition

eccentric

1 of 2 adjective
ec·​cen·​tric ik-ˈsen-trik, ek- How to pronounce eccentric (audio)
: deviating from an established pattern or from accepted usage or conduct
eccentrically adverb

eccentric

2 of 2 noun
: an eccentric individual

More from Merriam-Webster on eccentric

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!


Words Named After People

  • name tags
  • Namesake of the leotard, Jules Léotard had what profession?
Spell It

Hear a word and type it out. How many can you get right?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ