Characteristic, individual, peculiar, distinctive are comparable when they mean indicating or revealing the special quality or qualities of a particular person or thing or of a particular group of persons or things.
Characteristic stresses the indication or revelation not only of what is essential or typical, but of what distinguishes and serves to identify the person, the thing, or the group; the word, however, fixes the attention on the thing considered more as it is in itself than as it seems in contrast or relation to other things.
Individual (see also SPECIAL) not only implies a reference to a particular person or thing but also places much more stress on qualities that distinguish him or it from all other members of the same class or kind than does characteristic; it therefore usually applies to something that indicates or reveals a personality or a nature that is different from others.
Peculiar (see also STRANGE) comes close to individual; it usually implies a reference to a person or thing as he or it is in himself or itself and as differentiated from all others of the same kind. It may, however, apply to such a class as a sex, a race, or a people. In this use, the term does not, as in its more common derived sense, necessarily carry any hint of strangeness or oddness; rather it suggests private and undisputed possession (as of a quality, a character, an emotion, or a significance).
Distinctive implies the possession of an individuality or peculiarity that marks the thing so described as apart from all others of its class or type and often, therefore, as worthy of special recognition or praise.