Difference between Characteristics and Features

Key Difference: Features are used to describe physical attribute of something or someone, such as describing the face, shape, body, etc. Characteristics have more to do with character and behavior. They tend to refer to how someone acts, or behaves.

CharacteristicsCharacteristics and features are both used to describe people and things, which is why they can be quite confusing, especially to a new English speaker. It is hard to differentiate between the two and to define whether something is a characteristic or a feature.

The terms are often used interchangeably, and can be used that way. They are definitely interrelated. However, it should be noted that there is a certain distinction in the manner that the two terms are used. Typically, features are used to describe physical attribute of something or someone, such as describing the face, shape, body, etc. Characteristics, on the other hand, have more to do with character and behavior. They tend to refer to how someone acts, or behaves.

While this is mostly true, like everything in English, this also has exceptions. In everyday English, the terms have come to be used interchangeably. In the case of a person, this distinction still holds. If one asks about the features of Mary, chances are the person will talk about her physical attributes, whereas asking about her characteristics; chances are that they will talk about something important or significant about her or her personality.

FeaturesHowever, in the case of non-animate object, the terms are pretty much the same; primarily because objects and technology don’t really have characteristics to talk about. They don’t have a personality or behavior.  It would be creepy if they did. Hence, in these instances, their features and characteristics are the same. Mostly, the term features are used here. So when talking about the features of a phone, for example, one wouldn’t talk about how flat it is or look like a rectangle (i.e. physical attributes), instead one would talk about its processor, its memory, how fast it is, what it offers, etc.

If the terms are still confusing, or if unsure which one to use, one can always talk about the “features and characteristics”, that way both are used, and neither is wrong. Still when in doubt, note that typically feature is used more commonly than characteristics.

Comparison between Characteristics and Features:

 

Characteristics

Features

Definition (Oxford Dictionaries)

Typical of a particular person, place, or thing.

A feature or quality belonging typically to a person, place, or thing and serving to identify them.

A distinctive attribute or aspect of something.

A part of the face, such as the mouth or eyes, making a significant contribution to its overall appearance.

Have as a prominent attribute or aspect.

Description

Features refer to an important quality or ability of something

Characteristics refer to unique qualities that make something or someone different from others

Type of Speech

Adjective, Noun

Noun, Verb

Etymology

Mid 17th century from French caractéristique or medieval Latin characteristicus, from Greek kharaktēristikos, from kharaktēr ‘a stamping tool’.

Late Middle English (originally denoting the form or proportions of the body, or a physical feature): from Old French faiture ‘form’, from Latin acture (see facture).

Related to

Related to Character and behavior. Non-physical.

Physical Attributes. Visible.

Refers to

Mannerisms, personality traits, talents, intelligence, other unique qualities

Facial features, shape, size and color, their bodies, etc.

Examples

Mary is quite a weird character.

The hotel is characteristically beautiful.

 

Mary’s features include brown hair and green eyes.

The hotel features a large pool.

She explored the features of the new phone.

Reference: Lexico (Feature, Characteristic), Stack Exchange, Pediaa, Wiki Diff
Image Courtesy: bashny.net, slideshare.com

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