Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
September 27th, 2016
Episode 660 of 790 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 27, 2016 is: peculiar \pih-KYOOL-yer\ adjective 1 : characteristic of only one person, group, or thing : distinctive 2 : special, particular 3 : odd, curious 4 : eccentric Examples: "'I'm not like you. … I'm common, just like my grandfather.' Emma shook her head. 'Is that really what you think?' 'If I could do something spectacular like you, don't you think I would've noticed by now? … There's nothing peculiar about me. I'm the most average person you'll ever meet.'" — Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, 2011 "It's not hard to spot players of the most popular smartphone game of all time. They have a peculiar way of carrying their devices in front of them with one hand, says John Hanke, the technology whiz behind Pokémon Go…." — Ryan Mac, Forbes, 23 Aug. 2016 Did you know? Peculiar comes from Latin peculiaris, an adjective meaning "privately owned" or "special" that is derived from the word for "property," peculium. Those words are cognate with pecu, a word for "cattle" that is also etymologically linked to a few English words related to money. Among these are pecuniary ("of or relating to money"), peculate ("to embezzle"), and impecunious ("having very little or no money"). Peculiar borrowed the Latin meanings of peculiaris, but it eventually came to refer to qualities possessed only by a particular individual, group, or thing. That sense is commonly followed by the preposition to, as in "a custom peculiar to America." In time, peculiar was being used specifically for unusual qualities, as well as the individuals that possessed them, which led to the word's "odd," "curious," and "eccentric" senses.