Definition of characteristic in English:



  • Typical of a particular person, place, or thing:

    ‘he began with a characteristic attack on extremism’
    • ‘Alongside these broad visions is characteristic attention to detail.’
    • ‘Michael died following a relatively short illness borne with characteristic bravery and courage.’
    • ‘There is one characteristic thread that runs through the various ways in which these authority figures expressed themselves.’
    • ‘Dishes in each region have their own set of characteristic flavours.’
    • ‘By that time, he had evolved that characteristic style of his.’
    • ‘She spoke all along with that characteristic exuberance on her face.’
    • ‘He battled his illness with characteristic courage and fortitude and displayed a positive attitude to the end.’
    • ‘Even when he returned to Africa he described the experience in characteristic terms.’
    • ‘Different health conditions impede development in characteristic ways.’
    • ‘Not only did he write a great story, but he also directed it with characteristic verve and energy.’
    • ‘He tackled the central themes of the war with characteristic wit during a lecture last year at the Edinburgh Book Festival.’
    • ‘It is very characteristic of the Hellenistic period, but shows evidence of an Augustan remodelling.’
    • ‘‘Our band is hugely gifted,’ he has explained with characteristic modesty.’
    • ‘From my experience, what is very characteristic of what we see here in Thailand is the failed attempt to win a real trophy.’
    • ‘Benton looked about the table and, with characteristic bluntness, said, ‘Who are all these people?’’
    • ‘The Queen turned at the top of the cathedral steps to acknowledge well-wishers with a broad smile and characteristic wave.’
    • ‘She readily posed for group photos with that characteristic smile always on her lips.’
    • ‘Kara couldn't help smiling at Toni's characteristic ability to understand her better than she understood herself.’
    • ‘Here he has met some setbacks, but with characteristic determination he is going to try again.’
    • ‘Cremation of the dead is one of the most characteristic features of Indian or Hindu civilization.’
    typical, usual, normal, predictable, habitual, in character
    distinctive, distinguishing, particular, special, especial, individual, specific, peculiar, idiosyncratic, singular, unique, exclusive, unmistakable
    representative, symbolic, symptomatic, indicative, diagnostic
    View synonyms


  • 1A feature or quality belonging typically to a person, place, or thing and serving to identify them:

    ‘certain defining characteristics of the school emerge from the study’
    • ‘A distinguishing characteristic of female voters is their caution.’
    • ‘A sentimental identification with the underdog is one of our national characteristics.’
    • ‘There can be no doubt that soil characteristics do influence wine quality.’
    • ‘Every facial feature and physical characteristic was identical to Alastair's.’
    • ‘Each of these has its own characteristics and is therefore distinguishable from the others.’
    • ‘Sociability is a distinguishing characteristic of the islands and often is commented on by visitors.’
    • ‘At the same time, most of these characteristics belong to any good person.’
    • ‘To see an apprentice with these qualities and characteristics was not a common sight in the eighties.’
    • ‘Is Hinduism a religion like others, and what are the principal characteristics which define it?’
    • ‘The slow, melancholic songs are a distinctive characteristic of her music.’
    • ‘Perhaps one characteristic above all else defines explorers.’
    • ‘Whether such characteristics do define what it is to be British today is debatable.’
    • ‘Some sharks have distinct characteristics that set them apart from others.’
    • ‘It may seem facile, but teams do reflect the traits and characteristics of their coaches.’
    • ‘Religious dissent is a key characteristic of Scots-Irish identity.’
    • ‘These characteristics were presumably inherited from his mother, a German princess.’
    • ‘From the same list, I had to choose the characteristics that others would attribute to me.’
    • ‘The characteristic which has most marked his career has been his good judgement.’
    • ‘The characteristic that distinguishes international politics from internal politics is the absence of government.’
    • ‘A national characteristic has been identified in numerous scientific trials.’
    attribute, feature
    quality, essential quality, property, trait, aspect, element, facet
    mannerism, manner, habit, custom, way, mark, trademark, hallmark, distinction
    idiosyncrasy, peculiarity, quirk, oddity, foible
    penchant, proclivity, bent
    View synonyms
  • 2Mathematics
    The whole number or integral part of a logarithm, which gives the order of magnitude of the original number.

    • ‘His early work was on quadratic forms in fields, particularly fields of characteristic 2.’
    • ‘His habilitation of 1938 studied Lie rings of prime characteristic.’


Mid 17th century: from French caractéristique or medieval Latin characteristicus, from Greek kharaktēristikos, from kharaktēr a stamping tool.