When something is called peculiar or having a peculiarity what does that mean? Does it just mean it has some specific features or does it mean that those specific features are unusual, not normally expected?

1 Answer 1


Pecularity means "an odd or unusual feature or habit", but also "a characteristic or quality that is distinctive of a particular person or place".

For all her peculiarities, he finds her personality quite endearing.
Her essays characterized decency as a British peculiarity.

Peculiar means "strange or odd", but also "unusual", or (in peculiar to) "belonging exclusively to".

Her accent was a peculiar mixture of Cockney and Irish.
The air hung with an antiseptic aroma peculiar to hospitals.

Peculiar and having a peculiarity have both the meanings you supposed.

Informally, peculiar means also unwell: she felt a little peculiar for a while.

[Reference: the New Oxford American English.]

  • The sense of "characteristic of" is now rather literary: in informal speech it almost always has the connotation of being strange or wrong.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 24, 2011 at 18:16
  • I think you could say "How peculiar!" to mean that something was unexpected in the same way that Alice said "Curiouser and curiouser!"
    – oosterwal
    Feb 24, 2011 at 23:10

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