pe·​cu·​liar | \ pi-ˈkyül-yər \

Definition of peculiar

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : characteristic of only one person, group, or thing : distinctive … a drowsy fervour of manner and tone which was quite peculiar to her.— Thomas Hardy
2 : different from the usual or normal:
a : special, particular a matter of peculiar interest
b : odd, curious It seems peculiar that she would leave town without telling anybody.
c : eccentric, queer The play had a zany plot and very peculiar characters.


pe·​cu·​liar | \ pi-ˈkyül-yər \

Definition of peculiar (Entry 2 of 2)

: something exempt from ordinary jurisdiction especially : a church or parish exempt from the jurisdiction of the ordinary in whose territory it lies

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from peculiar


peculiarly adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for peculiar


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

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

Peculiar Has Latin Roots


Peculiar comes from Latin peculiaris, an adjective meaning "privately owned" or "special" that is derived from the word for "property," peculium. Those words are cognate with pecu, a word for "cattle" that is also etymologically linked to a few English words related to money. Among these are pecuniary ("of or relating to money"), peculate ("to embezzle"), and impecunious ("having very little or no money"). Peculiar borrowed the Latin meanings of peculiaris, but it eventually came to refer to qualities possessed only by a particular individual, group, or thing. That sense is commonly followed by the preposition to, as in "a custom peculiar to America." In time, peculiar was being used specifically for unusual qualities, as well as the individuals that possessed them, which led to the word's "odd," "curious," and "eccentric" senses.

Examples of peculiar in a Sentence


As military coups go, this was a most peculiar one, bloodless, and in Bangkok at least quite popular. — Ian Buruma, New York Review, 1 Mar. 2007 Right about then, Ensberg got himself back on the field, where a peculiar thing happened: he stopped thinking. — Tom Friend, ESPN, 28 Aug. 2006 I smell again the peculiar and dynamic smell of Gillespie's science room. — Muriel Spark, Curriculum Vitae, (1992) 1993 It seems peculiar that he would leave town and not tell anybody. The dog's peculiar behavior worried them. She got a peculiar feeling when the phone rang. She had a peculiar expression on her face.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

But the cartel’s peculiar needs, such as creating shell companies, laundering money and investing millions in bribes and military-grade weapons, added a high degree of complexity. Sam Walker, WSJ, "Help! My Boss Is El Chapo," 12 Jan. 2019 Italy is now more interesting than before, but still a very peculiar case. Steff Yotka, Vogue, "Think Streetwear Is a New Phenomenon? Meet Luca Benini Who Started the Hype 30 Years Ago," 11 Jan. 2019 In May this year, my colleague James Vincent added a peculiar looking butterfly as a custom emoji on Vox Media’s Slack. Verge Staff, The Verge, "The best memes of 2018, according to The Verge staff," 27 Dec. 2018 Further Reading Amazfit Bip review: One peculiar week with a $99 smartwatch Huawei doesn't hold back any of the information that the Watch GT collects during exercise. Valentina Palladino, Ars Technica, "Huawei Watch GT review: When hardware and software don’t mesh," 16 Dec. 2018 As reported by Someecards, an eagle-eyed fan pointed out on Twitter a rather peculiar occurrence. Sara Delgado, Teen Vogue, "Fans Spotted Mistakes in Netflix's "The Princess Switch," Including Vanessa Hudgens's Body Double," 19 Nov. 2018 The Orioles optioned rookie catcher Chance Sisco back to Triple-A Norfolk following Friday’s game against the Texas Rangers, continuing the club’s peculiar roster rotation of musical chairs among its catchers. Eduardo A. Encina,, "Orioles option catcher Chance Sisco to Triple-A Norfolk," 13 July 2018 Everything is precisely choreographed, but largely in ways that make naturalistic behavior look peculiar. Alastair Macaulay, New York Times, "Review: At BalletX, a New Work Alive With Suspense and Surrealism," 13 July 2018 Speaking about Lift in the same IndieWire Studio interview, Hammer emphasized the CEO’s peculiar, consistent logic: [Lift is] a guy who doesn’t consider himself like a fanciful, crazy character. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, "Sorry to Bother You Has an Eerily Familiar Villain," 10 July 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of peculiar


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1562, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for peculiar

Adjective and Noun

Middle English peculier, from Latin peculiaris of private property, special, from peculium private property, from pecu cattle; akin to Latin pecus cattle — more at fee

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about peculiar

Listen to Our Podcast about peculiar

Statistics for peculiar

Last Updated

16 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for peculiar

The first known use of peculiar was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for peculiar



English Language Learners Definition of peculiar

: not usual or normal

: not well : somewhat ill


pe·​cu·​liar | \ pi-ˈkyül-yər \

Kids Definition of peculiar

1 : of or limited to only one person, thing, or place It's a custom peculiar to England.
2 : different from the usual : odd

Other Words from peculiar

peculiarly adverb

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on peculiar

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for peculiar

Spanish Central: Translation of peculiar

Nglish: Translation of peculiar for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of peculiar for Arabic Speakers

Comments on peculiar

What made you want to look up peculiar? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


means, resources, or money

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three-bears-two-of-them-look-like-theyre-whispering-to-a-third-bear-who-looks-chuffed-to-be-the-center-of-attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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