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[spesh-uh l] /ˈspɛʃ əl/
of a distinct or particular kind or character:
a special kind of key.
being a particular one; particular, individual, or certain:
You'd better call the special number.
pertaining or peculiar to a particular person, thing, instance, etc.; distinctive; unique:
the special features of a plan.
having a specific or particular function, purpose, etc.:
a special messenger.
distinguished or different from what is ordinary or usual:
a special occasion; to fix something special.
extraordinary; exceptional, as in amount or degree; especial:
special importance.
being such in an exceptional degree; particularly valued:
a special friend.
pertaining to people with singular needs or disabilities, or to their education:
disabled students with special needs; state funding for special schools.
a special person or thing.
a train used for a particular purpose, occasion, or the like.
a special edition of a newspaper.
Theater. a spotlight reserved for a particular area, property, actor, etc.:
Give me the coffin special.
a temporary, arbitrary reduction in the price of regularly stocked goods, especially food; a particularly worthwhile offer or price:
The special this week is on sirloin steaks.
Television. a single program not forming part of a regular series.
Origin of special
1175-1225; Middle English (adj.) < Latin speciālis of a given species, equivalent to speci(ēs) species + -ālis -al1; see especial
Related forms
specially, adverb
interspecial, adjective
nonspecial, adjective, noun
nonspecially, adverb
superspecial, adjective, noun
Can be confused
especially, specially (see synonym study at especially; see usage note at the current entry)
specially, specialty.
5. singular.
1. general.
Synonym Study
5.Special, particular, specific refer to something pointed out for attention and consideration. Special means given unusual treatment because of being uncommon: a special sense of a word. Particular implies something selected from the others of its kind and set off from them for attention: a particular variety of orchid. Specific implies plain and unambiguous indication of a particular instance, example, etc.: a specific instance of cowardice.
Usage note
In American English the adjective special is overwhelmingly more common than especial in all senses: He will be of special help if you can't understand the documentation. The reverse is true of the adverbs; here especially is by far the more common: He will be of great help, especially if you have trouble understanding the documentation. Only when the sense “specifically” is intended is specially more idiomatic: The machine was specially designed for use by a left-handed operator. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Historical Examples
British Dictionary definitions for special


distinguished, set apart from, or excelling others of its kind
(prenominal) designed or reserved for a particular purpose: a special tool for working leather
not usual or commonplace
(prenominal) particular or primary: his special interest was music
denoting or relating to the education of physically or mentally handicapped children: a special school
a special person or thing, such as an extra edition of a newspaper or a train reserved for a particular purpose
a dish or meal given prominence, esp at a low price, in a café, etc
(Austral, history, slang) a convict given special treatment on account of his education, social class, etc
short for special constable
(Austral & NZ, US & Canadian, informal) an item in a store that is advertised at a reduced price; a loss leader
verb (transitive) -cials, -cialling, -cialled
(NZ, informal) to advertise and sell (an item) at a reduced price: we are specialling butter this week
Derived Forms
specially, adverb
specialness, noun
Word Origin
C13: from Old French especial, from Latin speciālis individual, special, from speciēs appearance, species
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 special

early 13c., "better than ordinary," from Old French especial, from Latin specialis "individual, particular," from species "appearance, kind, sort" (see species). Meaning "marked off from others by some distinguishing quality" is recorded from c.1300. In Middle English, also as a noun meaning "sweetheart, lover." Meaning "special train" is attested from 1866. Special effects first attested 1951. Special interests in U.S. political sense is from 1910. Special pleading first recorded 1680s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for special


The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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