Special, especial, specific, particular, individual are closely related terms because all carry the meaning relating to or belonging to one thing or one class especially as distinguished from all the others.
Both special and especial imply differences which distinguish the thing so described from others of its kind, and the two can often be interchanged without significant loss. However special may be preferred when the differences give the thing concerned a quality, character, identity, or use of its own.
Often, in addition, special implies being out of the ordinary or being conspicuously unusual and therefore comes close to uncommon or exceptional .
Special is also applicable to something added (as to a schedule, a series, or a sequence) for an exceptional or extraordinary purpose, reason, or occasion.
Especial is more likely to be chosen when there is the intent to convey the idea of preeminence or of being such as is described over and above all the others.
Specific (see also EXPLICIT ) basically implies unique and peculiar relationship to a kind or category or individual.
In some (as philosophical, biological, or critical) uses it can suggest opposition to generic and imply a relation to a particular species as distinguished from a more comprehensive category to which that species belongs, but in more general use it tends to stress uniquity and to imply a relation to one thing or one individual as distinguished from all others that can be felt to fall into a category with that one.
However, specific also may mean no more than explicitly mentioned, or called into or brought forward for consideration.
In this last sense of specific particular is sometimes preferred on the ground that the term is clearly opposed to general and that it is a close synonym of single (for fuller treatment see SINGLE ).
The differences between the two words in this sense are not easily discoverable, but specific seems to be chosen more often when the ideas of specification or of illustration are involved, and particular, when the distinctness of the thing as an individual is to be suggested; thus, one gives a specific illustration to indicate a word’s normal use but describes the particular uses of the word.
Particular is often used also in the sense of special and especial . In logic particular is opposed to universal and applies to matters (as propositions, judgments, and conceptions) which have reference to a single member or to some members of a class rather than to all; thus, “some men are highly intelligent” is a particular proposition, but “all men make mistakes” is a universal proposition.
Often, in less technical use, particular implies an opposition to general as well as to universal .
Individual unequivocally implies reference to one of the class or group as clearly distinguished from all the others.