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  1. Also char·ac·ter·is·ti·cal. 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.
  1. a distinguishing feature or quality: Generosity is his chief characteristic.
  2. Mathematics.
    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

From the Greek word charaktēristikós, dating back to 1655–65. See character, -istic
Related formschar·ac·ter·is·ti·cal·ly, adverbnon·char·ac·ter·is·tic, adjectivenon·char·ac·ter·is·ti·cal·ly, adverbqua·si-char·ac·ter·is·tic, adjectivequa·si-char·ac·ter·is·ti·cal·ly, adverbun·char·ac·ter·is·tic, adjectiveun·char·ac·ter·is·ti·cal·ly, adverb

Synonyms for characteristic

See more synonyms for on Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for characteristics

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Historical Examples of characteristics

British Dictionary definitions for characteristics


  1. a distinguishing quality, attribute, or trait
  2. maths
    1. the integral part of a common logarithm, indicating the order of magnitude of the associated numberthe characteristic of 2.4771 is 2 Compare mantissa
    2. another name for exponent, used esp in number representation in computing
  1. indicative of a distinctive quality, etc; typical
Derived Formscharacteristically, 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

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

characteristics in Medicine


  1. A distinguishing feature or attribute; character.
  2. A structure or function determined by a gene or genes; trait.
Related formschar′ac•ter•istic adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

characteristics in Science


  1. 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 © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.