Nearby words

  1. spearwort,
  2. spec,
  3. spec sheet,
  4. spec.,
  5. speccy,
  6. special act,
  7. special agent,
  8. special air service,
  9. special anatomy,
  10. special area

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
Can be confusedespecially specially (see synonym study at especially) (see usage note at the current entry)specially specialty

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.

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for specially

British Dictionary definitions for specially



distinguished, set apart from, or excelling others of its kind
(prenominal) designed or reserved for a particular purposea special tool for working leather
not usual or commonplace
(prenominal) particular or primaryhis special interest was music
denoting or relating to the education of physically or mentally handicapped childrena 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
Australian history slang a convict given special treatment on account of his education, social class, etc
Australian, NZ, US and Canadian informal an item in a store that is advertised at a reduced price; a loss leader

verb -cials, -cialling or -cialled (tr)

NZ informal to advertise and sell (an item) at a reduced pricewe are specialling butter this week
Derived Formsspecially, adverbspecialness, noun

Word Origin for special

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

Word Origin and History for specially



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