Definition of peculiar
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 interestb : 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.
peculiar was our Word of the Day on 09/27/2016. Hear the podcast!
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.
Did You Know?
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.
Origin and Etymology of peculiar
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
First Known Use: 15th century
Synonym Discussion of peculiar
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 Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of peculiar for English Language Learners
: not usual or normal
: not well : somewhat ill
PECULIAR Defined for Kids
History for peculiar
The word peculiar first meant “a person's own.” You may have some quality that is just your own. No one else has it. That surely makes it unusual. This is how peculiar came to mean “unusual” or “odd.”
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up peculiar? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).