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Characteristic vs. Quality: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 6, 2024
Characteristic is a distinguishing feature or trait of something or someone, while quality is the standard or degree of excellence of something.

Key Differences

A characteristic is a feature that helps to identify, tell apart, or describe recognizably; it's something that makes an object, person, or phenomenon distinct. Quality, on the other hand, refers to the inherent or distinctive attributes or properties of an object, person, or other entity, often relating to standards of excellence or worth.
Characteristics can be physical, such as the color of a car, or behavioral, like a person's habit of smiling often. Qualities are more about the level of excellence or value, such as the durability of a product or the kindness of a person.
When we speak of a characteristic, we're usually describing something observable and identifying. In contrast, discussing quality often involves subjective judgment and evaluation against a set of standards or expectations.
For example, a characteristic of a particular smartphone model might be its screen size, which is a neutral, descriptive fact. The quality of the same smartphone could refer to its performance, a subjective measure that can vary based on user experience and expectations.
In essence, while characteristics are distinct features that define and differentiate, qualities are about the inherent attributes that determine the overall worth, standard, or level of excellence of the subject in question.

Comparison Chart


A distinguishing feature or trait
Standard or degree of excellence


Descriptive, observable
Evaluative, subjective


Color of a car, habit of smiling
Durability of a product, kindness of a person

Usage Context

Identification, differentiation
Judgment, evaluation against standards


Distinctiveness, recognition
Inherent attributes, value

Characteristic and Quality Definitions


A peculiar quality or attribute.
Her characteristic laughter fills the room.


The degree of excellence of something.
This brand is known for its high quality.


A feature that distinguishes a person or thing.
A characteristic of an eagle is its sharp eyesight.


The standard of something measured against other things.
The quality of her work is always exceptional.


A trait or quality typical of a particular person or thing.
It's characteristic of him to arrive early.


A distinctive attribute or characteristic.
Honesty is a quality I admire in people.


An inherent or distinguishing attribute.
The characteristic fragrance of roses is very distinct.


An essential or distinctive characteristic.
The quality of his voice is very unique.


A distinctive or identifying feature.
The characteristic sound of a train whistle is unmistakable.


A trait or characteristic of a high standard.
She has the quality of patience.


Being a feature that helps to distinguish a person or thing; distinctive
Heard my friend's characteristic laugh.
The stripes that are characteristic of the zebra.


An inherent or distinguishing characteristic; a property
The medicinal qualities of a plant.


A personal trait, especially a character trait
"The most vital quality a soldier can possess is self-confidence" (George S. Patton).


What defines a characteristic?

A distinguishing feature or trait.

Can characteristics be negative?

Yes, if they are unfavorable distinguishing features.

How is quality defined?

The standard or degree of excellence.

Are qualities inherent?

Some are, while others develop over time.

Are all qualities positive?

No, qualities can be either positive or negative.

Is a characteristic always observable?

Generally, yes, it's often something you can perceive.

Is quality subjective?

Often, as it involves judgment against standards.

Does quality always imply superiority?

Not always, it can refer to any level of excellence.

Are characteristics unique to individuals?

They can be, but some are shared among groups.

Are characteristics always visible?

Not always, some are internal or behavioral.

Can a person have many characteristics?

Yes, individuals can have a multitude of distinguishing traits.

Can quality change over time?

Yes, the quality of something can improve or deteriorate.

Can animals have characteristics?

Yes, animals have distinct traits like humans.

Is quality important in products?

Absolutely, it's crucial for customer satisfaction.

Can characteristics be altered?

Some can be changed or modified.

Do characteristics define identity?

They contribute significantly to identity.

Is quality measurable?

In many cases, yes, through various metrics.

How do we judge quality?

Through comparison and assessment against standards.

Do characteristics affect behavior?

Yes, they can influence how a person behaves.

Does quality affect value?

Yes, higher quality often increases value.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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