English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

The word idios comes from Greek, meaning one's own.

Can I use "idiosyncrasies of [group]", despite the subject being a group rather than an individual?

share|improve this question
The etymology of a word does not necessarily tell us anything about its current meaning. See Etymological fallacy. – Colin Fine Nov 11 '11 at 11:48

I don't see any reason not to say that a group has idiosyncrasies as you would for an individual. You would, of course, run the risk of making a broad generalisation that is unlikely to apply to every individual in the group.

If you're looking for a single word to describe the shared idiosyncrasies or characteristics of a group, then perhaps subculture is appropriate.

share|improve this answer
You started well, but then mooted the point: you can talk about idiosyncrasies of group, subculture, country, the Earth and also about idiosyncrasies of lines (class), a line (some instance) or the line (a particular instance). – Unreason Nov 11 '11 at 11:00

One of the definitions of idiosyncrasy:

A structural or behavioral characteristic peculiar to an individual or group.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.