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[kar-ik-tuh-ris-tik] /ˌkær ɪk təˈrɪs tɪk/
Also, characteristical. pertaining to, constituting, or indicating the character or peculiar quality of a person or thing; typical; distinctive:
Red and gold are the characteristic colors of autumn.
a distinguishing feature or quality:
Generosity is his chief characteristic.
  1. the integral part of a common logarithm.
    Compare mantissa.
  2. the exponent of 10 in a number expressed in scientific notation.
  3. the smallest positive integer n such that each element of a given ring added to itself n times results in 0.
Origin of characteristic
1655-65; < Greek charaktēristikós. See character, -istic
Related forms
characteristically, adverb
noncharacteristic, adjective
noncharacteristically, adverb
quasi-characteristic, adjective
quasi-characteristically, adverb
uncharacteristic, adjective
uncharacteristically, adverb
1. special, peculiar. 2. attribute, property, trait. See feature. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for characteristics
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It was impossible to connect any of these characteristics with the woman beside him.

    In The Valley Of The Shadow Josephine Daskam
  • All these characteristics are lacking in the works after "Timon."

    The Man Shakespeare Frank Harris
  • Among other characteristics of genius, was his simplicity of character and singleness of mind.

  • A dissemination of characteristics; moral and physical resemblance to his mother.

    A Zola Dictionary J. G. Patterson
  • Now this action is one of the characteristics of the Swifts, who often cling to walls for a time, and then resume their flight.

    Bible Animals; J. G. Wood
British Dictionary definitions for characteristics


a distinguishing quality, attribute, or trait
  1. the integral part of a common logarithm, indicating the order of magnitude of the associated number: the characteristic of 2.4771 is 2 Compare mantissa
  2. another name for exponent, used esp in number representation in computing
indicative of a distinctive quality, etc; typical
Derived Forms
characteristically, adverb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for characteristics


adjective and noun both first attested 1660s, from character + -istic on model of Greek kharakteristikos. Earlier in the adjectival sense was characteristical (1620s). Related: Characteristically (1640s). Characteristics "distinctive traits" also attested from 1660s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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characteristics in Medicine

characteristic char·ac·ter·is·tic (kār'ək-tə-rĭs'tĭk)
See character.

char'ac·ter·is'tic adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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characteristics in Science
The part of a logarithm to the base 10 that is to the left of the decimal point. For example, if 2.749 is a logarithm, 2 is the characteristic. Compare mantissa.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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