View synonyms for special


[ spesh-uhl ]


  1. of a distinct or particular kind or character:

    a special kind of key.

    Antonyms: general

  2. being a particular one; particular, individual, or certain:

    You'd better call the special number.

  3. pertaining or peculiar to a particular person, thing, instance, etc.; distinctive; unique:

    the special features of a plan.

  4. having a specific or particular function, purpose, etc.:

    a special messenger.

  5. distinguished or different from what is ordinary or usual: to fix something special.

    a special occasion;

    to fix something special.

    Synonyms: singular

  6. extraordinary; exceptional, as in amount or degree; especial:

    special importance.

  7. being such in an exceptional degree; particularly valued:

    a special friend.

  8. Sometimes Offensive. pertaining to people with singular needs or disabilities, or to their education:

    disabled students with special needs;

    state funding for special schools.


  1. a special person or thing.
  2. a train used for a particular purpose, occasion, or the like.
  3. a special edition of a newspaper.
  4. Theater. a spotlight reserved for a particular area, property, actor, etc.:

    Give me the coffin special.

  5. 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.

  6. Television. a single program not forming part of a regular series.


/ ˈspɛʃəl /


  1. distinguished, set apart from, or excelling others of its kind
  2. prenominal designed or reserved for a particular purpose

    a special tool for working leather

  3. not usual or commonplace
  4. prenominal particular or primary

    his special interest was music

  5. denoting or relating to the education of physically or mentally handicapped children

    a special school


  1. a special person or thing, such as an extra edition of a newspaper or a train reserved for a particular purpose
  2. a dish or meal given prominence, esp at a low price, in a café, etc
  3. slang.
    history a convict given special treatment on account of his education, social class, etc
  4. informal.
    an item in a store that is advertised at a reduced price; a loss leader


  1. informal.
    to advertise and sell (an item) at a reduced price

    we are specialling butter this week

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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.

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Sensitive Note

In the 20th century, special was used freely as a modifier describing services or accessibility resources for people with disabilities or disabled people's functional needs, and sometimes as a euphemism for disabled to label the people themselves. Most euphemistic language for disabilities and people with disabilities is no longer preferred, and special used in this way may be considered offensive, especially when used to describe a person. The phrase special needs is somewhat more accepted, but is less common than it used to be. Instead, when possible, make reference to the specific disability in question. However, the fixed expression special education is still an official designation in public education and continues to be used, even by speakers who otherwise avoid special and its compounds.

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Derived Forms

  • ˈspecialness, noun
  • ˈspecially, adverb

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Other Words From

  • spe·cial·ly adverb
  • in·ter·spe·cial adjective
  • non·spe·cial adjective noun
  • su·per·spe·cial adjective noun

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Word History and Origins

Origin of special1

First recorded in 1175–1225; Middle English (adjective), from Latin speciālis “of a given species,” equivalent to speci(ēs) “form, kind, sort” + -ālis adjective suffix; species, -al 1, especial

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Word History and Origins

Origin of special1

C13: from Old French especial, from Latin speciālis individual, special, from speciēs appearance, species

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Synonym Study

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.

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Example Sentences

Bradford hustled, advertising her specials on Facebook and calling around to nonprofits and municipal agencies, asking if anyone needed food delivered.

GW Ori has long been an exemplar for all the special dynamical effects that go on in such a system.

The rider with the most such points at the end of the Tour is named “King of the Mountains” and gets to wear a special polka dot jersey.

There are special places like that, like Floriana up the street, or Martin’s Tavern over in Georgetown.

The congressional model uses 265 variables in the House and 201 in the Senate spanning each non-special congressional election from 2006 until 2020.

From Ozy

As for the federal authorities, they have made themselves available but the clergy have not requested special protection.

At the same time, campaigns are spending less while the special-interest groups are spending more.

The off-year special election into which Duke threw himself drew little media notice at first.

All of the big cats have a special mystique, but perhaps none more so than the tiger.

It all sounds a bit dramatic, but that cactus feels like something special.

For this use of the voice in the special service of will-power, or propelling force, it is necessary first to test its freedom.

Diplococci without capsules are common in the sputum, but have no special significance.

Will the new issues promptly retire when their special task is over?

Instead of the expected general amnesty, only a few special pardons were granted.

The result of this mission was eminently successful; a special treaty was drawn up and Spain sold Louisiana to France.


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[ak-suh-lot-l ]

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speccyspecial act