Word: idiosyncrasy

Pronunciation: i-dee-ə-SIN-krə-see

Part of Speech: noun


  1. a mode of behavior or way of thought peculiar to an individual
  2. a distinctive or peculiar feature or characteristic of a place or thing

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

Look, you do understand that Sheldon really doesn’t care when he gets the money back. It’s actually one of the few idiosyncrasies that doesn’t make you want to, you know, kill him.

– Leonard Hofstadter, The Big Bang Theory (Season 2, Episode 14 – The Financial Permeability)

Here’s another fun word I learned from The Big Bang Theory. Some time after borrowing money from Sheldon, Penny starts to feel guilty for not yet being able to pay him back, a fact made evident by her increasingly irritable behavior. In an attempt to make her feel better, Leonard reassures her that Sheldon doesn’t mind going an extended period of time without the money he lent her, which, unlike most of his other quirks, is actually a positive one.

An “idiosyncrasy” is a characteristic that’s peculiar to a person, place or thing. The word arose in the early 17th century and was used in the sense of “physical constitution peculiar to an individual”. It is derived from the Greek word idiosunkrasia, which is comprised of three roots: idios “own, private”, sun “with”, and krasis “mixture”.

Aside from its informal uses as a synonym for “peculiarity”, the word “idiosyncrasy” also functions as a medical term to mean “an abnormal physical reaction by an individual to a food or drug”. Of course, this definition would most likely only be useful if you write medical dramas, so if you choose to include the word in your writing, you’ll probably use it in its more common sense. It’s an especially great word to keep in mind if you like to write eccentric characters, so have fun throwing plenty of “idiosyncrasies” into your stories!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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