pe·​cu·​liar | \ pi-ˈkyül-yər How to pronounce peculiar (audio) \

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, unusual The play had a zany plot and very peculiar characters.


pe·​cu·​liar | \ pi-ˈkyül-yər How to pronounce peculiar (audio) \

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

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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

Adjective 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 After Sandy Hook, too many explanations described these horrible events as peculiar to a deranged individual or due to the sole factor of mental illness. Darcie Vandegrift, The Conversation, 14 Dec. 2021 What’s peculiar about this modular contraption is that at least two of the three parts would also have a display component, which is an immediate problem, as displays feature bezels. Chris Smith, BGR, 17 May 2021 The 2021 season will be a peculiar one in terms of roster management thanks to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tom Green |, al, 6 Feb. 2021 Eagle-eyed Lil Nas X fans spotted something peculiar during the 2022 Grammys: His outfit seemed familiar. ELLE, 4 Apr. 2022 Now, nature is doing something peculiar — altering its beaches. Gwendolyn Wu, San Francisco Chronicle, 9 Mar. 2022 But after the release of their 2010 debut album Opus Eponymous — a theatrical metal masterpiece about the coming of the Antichrist — something peculiar began to happen with Ghost: Forge dipped a cloven hoof into social and political commentary. Joseph Hudak, Rolling Stone, 8 Mar. 2022 The symmetry is peculiar enough that the party committees have practically copied each other's talking points on the topic. Rick Klein, ABC News, 16 Feb. 2022 There is something peculiar about these players who outlast their 10 days of basketball fame, flip their emergency contracts into job security and pocket $1 million. Ben Cohen, WSJ, 5 Jan. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun And the company is faced with a peculiar (but not uncommon) state law that prohibits car companies from selling directly to customers, which will force the company to take a roundabout route to reach its Texan buyers. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz, 8 Oct. 2021 See More

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for peculiar

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

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Dictionary Entries Near peculiar



peculiar institution

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Last Updated

18 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Peculiar.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for peculiar


pe·​cu·​liar | \ pi-ˈkyül-yər How to pronounce peculiar (audio) \

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

More from Merriam-Webster on peculiar

Nglish: Translation of peculiar for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of peculiar for Arabic Speakers


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