from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Surpassing what is common or usual; exceptional: a special occasion; a special treat.
  • adj. Distinct among others of a kind: a special type of paint; a special medication for arthritis.
  • adj. Primary: His special satisfaction comes from volunteer work.
  • adj. Peculiar to a specific person or thing; particular: my own special chair; the special features of a computer.
  • adj. Having a limited or specific function, application, or scope: a special role in the mission.
  • adj. Arranged for a particular occasion or purpose: a special visit from her daughter.
  • adj. Regarded with particular affection and admiration: a special friend.
  • adj. Additional; extra: a special holiday flight.
  • n. Something arranged, issued, or appropriated to a particular service or occasion: rode to work on the commuter special.
  • n. A featured attraction, such as a reduced price: a special on salmon.
  • n. A single television production that features a specific work, a given topic, or a particular performer.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Distinguished by a unique or unusual quality.
  • adj. Of particular interest or value; certain; dear; beloved; favored.
  • adj. (derogatory) Retarded; mentally handicapped
  • adj. Constituting or relating to a species.
  • n. A reduction in consumer cost (usually for a limited time) for items or services rendered.
  • n. Unusual or exceptional episode of a series
  • n. A special constable.
  • n. Anything that is not according to normal practice, plan, or schedule, as an unscheduled run of transportation that is normally scheduled.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Of or pertaining to a species; constituting a species or sort.
  • adj. Particular; peculiar; different from others; extraordinary; uncommon.
  • adj. Appropriate; designed for a particular purpose, occasion, or person.
  • adj. Limited in range; confined to a definite field of action, investigation, or discussion.
  • adj. Chief in excellence.
  • n. A particular.
  • n. One appointed for a special service or occasion.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Of or pertaining to a species or sort; of a particular kind or character; distinct from other kinds; specifically characteristic.
  • Of or pertaining to one or more of a kind; peculiar to an individual or a set; not general; particular; individual.
  • Peculiar or distinct of the kind; of exceptional character, amount, degree, or the like; especially distinguished; express; particular.
  • Specifically, limited as to function, operation, or purpose; designed for specific application or service; acting for a limited time or in a restricted manner; not general of the kind named: as, special legislation; special pleading; a special agent, constable, or correspondent; special employment; a special dictionary.
  • Synonyms Special, Especial, Particular, Peculiar, Specific. Special is more common than especial, which has the same meaning; but especially is for rhythmical reasons (because it occurs most frequently at the beginning of a dependent clause, where usually an unaccented particle occurs, and where, therefore, a word with an accent on the first syllable is instinctively avoided) much more common than specially. The special comes under the general, as the particular comes under the special. A special favor is one that is more than ordinary; a particular favor is still more remarkable; a peculiar favor comes very closely home. When we speak of any particular thing, we distiuguish it from all others; when we speak of a specific fault in one's character, we name it with exactness; a special law is one that is made for a particular purpose or a peculiar case; a specific law is either one that we name exactly or one that names offenses, etc., exactly.
  • n. A special or particular person or thing.
  • n. (b ) A private companion; a paramour or concubine.
  • n. A person or thing appointed or set apart for a special purpose or occasion, as a constable, a railway-train, an examination, a dispatch, etc.: as, they traveled by special to Chicago; the specials were called out to quell the riot.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. adapted to or reserved for a particular purpose
  • adj. for a special service or occasion
  • n. a television production that features a particular person or work or topic
  • adj. first and most important
  • adj. unique or specific to a person or thing or category
  • adj. having a specific function or scope
  • n. a special offering (usually temporary and at a reduced price) that is featured in advertising
  • adj. added to a regular schedule
  • adj. surpassing what is common or usual or expected
  • n. a dish or meal given prominence in e.g. a restaurant


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English, from Old French especial, from Latin speciālis, from speciēs, kind; see species.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English, from Old French especial (whence also French spécial), from Latin specialis (from species, speciei). Used in English since the 13th century.



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  • --from the examples: British, colloquial A special constable. --Like those portrayed by Monty Python.

    January 4, 2013

  • I like how the CD&C specifically mentions "a special dictionary."

    January 4, 2013

  • CD&C oscillating between Yeats and Miss Manners.

    January 4, 2013

  • 'I'm Thpecial!'

    December 2, 2009

  • Don't forget about The Church Lady's (Saturday Night Live) rendition of this word, "Isn't that special?"

    March 26, 2009