ec·​cen·​tric | \ ik-ˈsen-trik How to pronounce eccentric (audio) , ek- \

Definition of eccentric

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : 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
2a : 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



Definition of eccentric (Entry 2 of 2)

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

Other Words from eccentric


eccentrically \ ik-​ˈsen-​tri-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce eccentric (audio) , ek-​ \ adverb

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

Did you know?

Eccentric comes to us through Middle English from the Medieval Latin word eccentricus, but it is ultimately derived from a combination of the Greek words ex, meaning "out of," and kentron, meaning "center." The original meaning of eccentric in English was "not having the same center" (as in "eccentric spheres"). In this sense, it contrasts with concentric, meaning "having a common center" (as in "concentric circles," one within another). But since the 17th century, English speakers have also used eccentric to describe those who are figuratively off-center. It can also be used to describe something that doesn't follow a truly circular path, as in "an eccentric orbit."

Examples of eccentric in a Sentence

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 While authors can be colorful, book dealers are often notably cranky and eccentric. Washington Post, 4 May 2022 An eccentric character, Dalí was apparently quite demanding of the staff, but my favorite anecdote was that his domestic cheetahs left scratches on the carpet of his suite. Samantha Lauriello, Travel + Leisure, 23 Apr. 2022 Noah Reid tapped into his skills as a musician and Broadway star to truly understand the inner workings of his eccentric character on Outer Range. Daniela Avila,, 21 Apr. 2022 Throughout his life, Wain was regarded as an eccentric character. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian Magazine, 23 Dec. 2021 Think Johnny Depp joining a big-budget Disney DIS -0.5% movie based on a theme park ride and creating his own eccentric supporting character to juice up the proceedings. Scott Mendelson, Forbes, 2 Nov. 2021 But big questions still remain about what direction the company will take under one of the world’s most eccentric and outspoken billionaires. Tristan Bove, Fortune, 25 Apr. 2022 MacLachlan is immensely fun to watch as Harold, whose temperate charm and dad-jokes energy serve as a pleasing complement to his frank and eccentric wife. Kristen Baldwin,, 2 Mar. 2022 She was styled by the store’s eccentric and beloved French owner, CC McGurr. Liana Satenstein, Vogue, 28 Feb. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Perhaps not surprisingly, considering the impracticality of such a project at the time, three of the earliest calls came from a maverick, an eccentric and a madman. Gary Kamiya, San Francisco Chronicle, 4 Mar. 2022 The Duke Jim Broadbent plays a British eccentric accused of pilfering a Goya painting, while Helen Mirren is his long-suffering wife. Wsj Arts, WSJ, 29 Apr. 2022 In 1890, a mustachioed eccentric named Eugene Schieffelin released a few dozen European starlings into New York City. New York Times, 11 Apr. 2022 Swedish skier Henrik Harlaut is known as an eccentric on the slopes. Gil Kaufman, Billboard, 9 Feb. 2022 Walter, a likable eccentric, spent his life endeavoring to prove, by way of cryptic codes, that Francis Bacon had written the works of Shakespeare. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, 7 Mar. 2022 The show therefore invites, or allows, his fans to revert to 1992 thinking about Jackson, who at the time was seen as merely a harmless eccentric. Kyle Smith, National Review, 11 Feb. 2022 Some historians have characterized Emily Dickinson as a mere eccentric, but Dickinson didn’t diminish her. Shirley Li, The Atlantic, 24 Dec. 2021 Tucci plays Frank Wild, an American treasure hunter cut from the cloth of Jeff Bezos, Lex Luthor or your favorite wealthy, bald eccentric. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 18 Jan. 2022 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.

First Known Use of eccentric


circa 1630, in the meaning defined at sense 1b


1827, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for eccentric


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


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

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The first known use of eccentric was circa 1630

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Last Updated

15 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Eccentric.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for eccentric


ec·​cen·​tric | \ ik-ˈsen-trik How to pronounce eccentric (audio) , ek- \

Kids Definition of eccentric

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : acting or thinking strangely an eccentric man
2 : not of the usual or normal kind eccentric ideas



Kids Definition of eccentric (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person who behaves strangely


ec·​cen·​tric | \ ik-ˈsen-trik, ek- How to pronounce eccentric (audio) \

Medical Definition of eccentric

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: deviating from an established pattern or from accepted usage or conduct

Other Words from eccentric

eccentrically \ -​tri-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce eccentric (audio) \ adverb



Medical Definition of eccentric (Entry 2 of 2)

: an eccentric individual

More from Merriam-Webster on eccentric

Nglish: Translation of eccentric for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of eccentric for Arabic Speakers


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