Definition of peculiar
- … a drowsy fervour of manner and tone which was quite peculiar to her.
- —Thomas Hardy
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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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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.
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