If something is a characteristic of someone or something, it is a feature you would expect. A characteristic of classical-style architecture is large stone columns. A characteristic of poodles is their pom-pom like tails.

A characteristic feature needn't just be a something physically apparent, it can describe a type of personality or atmosphere as well, as in: "The characteristic of all funeral homes is their gloomy air." As their spelling and meaning implies, there is a close link between the words characteristic and character, meaning the essential nature of a thing, and in fact both words come from the ancient Greek kharackter, meaning a "symbol or imprint on the soul."

Primary Meanings of characteristic

typical or distinctive
a prominent attribute or aspect of something
the integer part (positive or negative) of the representation of a logarithm; in the expression log 643 = 2.808 the characteristic is 2
Full Definitions of characteristic

adj typical or distinctive

“heard my friend's characteristic laugh”
“red and gold are the characteristic colors of autumn”
“stripes characteristic of the zebra”
diagnostic, symptomatic
characteristic or indicative of a disease
distinctive, typical
of a feature that helps to distinguish a person or thing
characteristic of one only; distinctive or special
exhibiting the qualities or characteristics that identify a group or kind or category
distinctive and not typical
atypical, untypical
not representative of a group, class, or type
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n a prominent attribute or aspect of something

“generosity is one of his best characteristics
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sex character, sex characteristic, sexual characteristic
those characteristics (both anatomical and psychological) that are strongly associated with one sex relative to the other
a feature (quantity or property or function) that remains unchanged when a particular transformation is applied to it
aspect, facet
a distinct feature or element in a problem
attracter, attraction, attractive feature, attractor, magnet
a characteristic that provides pleasure and attracts
any feature that is regarded as a sign of status (a particular power or quality or rank)
centerpiece, centrepiece
the central or most important feature
a feature (or the order or arrangement of features) of anything having a complex structure
excellence, excellency
an outstanding feature; something in which something or someone excels
outward features
distinctive feature, distinguishing characteristic, peculiarity
an odd or unusual characteristic
safety feature
feature of an artifact that is added to insure a user's safety
primary sex character, primary sex characteristic, primary sexual characteristic
the genetically determined sex characteristics bound up with reproduction (genitals and organs of reproduction)
secondary sex character, secondary sex characteristic, secondary sexual characteristic
the genetically determined sex characteristics that are not functionally necessary for reproduction (pitch of the voice and body hair and musculature)
the development of male secondary sexual characteristics in a female (or prematurely in a young boy)
calling card
a distinguishing characteristic or behavior
an aspect of something (as contrasted with some other implied aspect)
sector, sphere
a particular aspect of life or activity
a superficial aspect as opposed to the real nature of something
a general interest that leads people to want to know more
tourist attraction
a characteristic that attracts tourists
Type of:
attribute, dimension, property
a construct whereby objects or individuals can be distinguished

n a distinguishing quality

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passport, recommendation
any quality or characteristic that gains a person a favorable reception or acceptance or admission
capability of existing or performing in harmonious or congenial combination
the quality of being unable to exist or work in congenial combination
point, spot
an outstanding characteristic
a distinguishing or individuating characteristic
earmark, hallmark, stylemark, trademark
a distinctive characteristic or attribute
saving grace
a redeeming quality or characteristic
a characteristic to be considered
the quality of being safe
the quality of not being safe
curability, curableness
capability of being cured or healed
incurability, incurableness
incapability of being cured or healed
directness, straightness
trueness of course toward a goal
having the characteristic of lacking a true course toward a goal
the characteristic of being strong enough to withstand intellectual challenge
ruralism, rurality
a rural characteristic or trait
a distinctive characteristic
congeniality, congenialness
compatibility between persons
harmoniousness, harmony
compatibility in opinion and action
sympathetic compatibility
agreement, correspondence
compatibility of observations
an incompatibility of dates or events
incongruity, incongruousness
the quality of disagreeing; being unsuitable and inappropriate
selling point
a characteristic of something that is up for sale that makes it attractive to potential customers
mold, mould
a distinctive nature, character, or type
extreme dangerousness
downrightness, straightforwardness
the quality of being direct and straightforward
immediacy, immediateness
lack of an intervening or mediating agency
the quality of being obviously directed at a particular person or thing
a quality characterized by indirect reference
mediacy, mediateness
the quality of being mediate
deviousness, obliqueness
the quality of being oblique and rambling indirectly
the quality of being discursive
Type of:
an essential and distinguishing attribute of something or someone

n any measurable property of a device measured under closely specified conditions

device characteristic
Type of:
a basic or essential attribute shared by all members of a class

n the integer part (positive or negative) of the representation of a logarithm; in the expression log 643 = 2.808 the characteristic is 2

Type of:
integer, whole number
any of the natural numbers (positive or negative) or zero