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


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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

But there was something peculiar about its hind-end. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "These Two Newly Described Worms Have Really Strange, Yet Marvelous Butts," 21 June 2019 There are also magic shows, daily live music, a mini golf course, and BMX stunt performances, along with Barnyard Bingo (Sunday, 2:30 p.m.), one of the more peculiar games. Grace Dickinson,, "Huntingdon Valley’s June Fete: Rides, funnel cake, and 100-plus years of history," 5 June 2019 Now, being asked to print and deposit a large check from an unknown individual who exhibited some very peculiar linguistic quirks gave my brain the dope-slap needed to persuade it to pay full attention to the situation. Lee H. Goldberg, Ars Technica, "“WHAT HAPPENED????” How a remote tech writing gig proved to be an old-school scam," 2 June 2019 The Iraq fiasco had multiple authors, but the distinctive neoconservative contribution is a peculiar brand of generically pro-war thinking. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "The Weekly Standard’s demise is a reminder that there are some ideas worse than Trumpism," 5 Dec. 2018 And with each autumn season, even more deliciously festive — and sometimes peculiar — items seem to pop up on the market. Suzannah Weiss, Teen Vogue, "10 Pumpkin Spice Flavored Foods," 19 Oct. 2018 The progressive insurgency sweeping the nation is cresting in Rhode Island as well — a state with a peculiar brand of politics and a history of strong lefty showings in Democratic primaries. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "Dem revolt threatens another incumbent," 12 Sep. 2018 But in quite a few other instances, something peculiar happened. Quanta Magazine, "Why Some Genetic Miscues Are Helpful," 3 Nov. 2016 She was fascinated by the nation’s shifting character during the ’60s — marked by its peculiar mix of optimistic progressivism, spiritual fervor, and potentially self-destructive self-reliance. Mary Spencer, National Review, "What Joan Didion Saw," 29 June 2019

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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Last Updated

17 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for peculiar

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

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More Definitions for peculiar



English Language Learners Definition of peculiar

: not usual or normal
British, informal : not well : somewhat ill


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

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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).


to form ideas or theories about something

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