Being a feature that helps to distinguish a person or thing; distinctive: heard my friend's characteristic laugh; the stripes that are characteristic of the zebra.
1. A feature that helps to identify, tell apart, or describe recognizably; a distinguishing mark or trait.
2. Mathematics The integral part of a logarithm as distinguished from the mantissa: The characteristic of the logarithm 6.3214 is 6.
3. Mathematics The least number of times the multiplicative identity in a ring needs to be added to itself to reach the additive identity, or, if the additive identity is never reached, zero. The integers have a characteristic of zero; the integers modulo 12 have a characteristic of 12.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.