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Special vs. Especial: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 5, 2023
"Special" refers to something distinguished by unique or exceptional qualities, while "especial" emphasizes something of particular importance or relevance to a specific person or situation.

Key Differences

"Special" is commonly used to describe something unique, exceptional, or different from the norm across various contexts. However, "especial" is less commonly used and often reserved for situations where there is a particular emphasis on specificity or individual relevance.
"Special" carries a connotation of uniqueness and importance that can apply to a wide range of scenarios. While, "especial" implies a more focused or narrow significance, often personalized or particularly pertinent to a specific case or individual.
"Special" is a more frequently used term in modern English, applicable in both formal and informal contexts. Whereas, "especial" is less common and often appears in more formal or literary contexts.
"Special" is used to denote special occasions, special offers, or special talents. Meanwhile, "especial" might be used in phrases like “of especial importance” or “for an especial purpose,” indicating a specific and noteworthy relevance.
Over time, "special" has become the more dominant term, encompassing the meanings that "especial" used to convey. "Especial" has become somewhat archaic and is now more limited in usage.

Comparison Chart

Usage Scope

Broad, various contexts.
Narrow, specific contexts.


General uniqueness or importance.
Specific or personal importance.

Frequency in Language

Commonly used in modern English.
Less common, more formal or literary.

Examples of Use

Special occasions, offers, talents.
Of especial importance, for an especial purpose.

Evolution in Language

Has become the dominant term.
Has become somewhat archaic and limited in use.

Special and Especial Definitions


Intended for a specific purpose or occasion.
They offer a special menu on weekends.


Used to emphasize the importance of something to a particular individual or context.
This book is of especial significance to me.


Holding a place of particular importance.
This place holds a special meaning for us.


Of particular importance or relevance to a specific person or situation.
She had an especial interest in history.


Extraordinary or uncommon.
We had a special dinner to celebrate the occasion.


Exceptionally great or important in a particular regard.
Her support was of especial importance during the crisis.


Designed for a particular purpose.
They made a special tool for this repair.


Particularly noteworthy or significant in a specific context.
His contributions were of especial value.


Distinguished from others by unique qualities.
She has a special talent for music.


Singularly important or significant.
The project was an especial focus of the team.


Surpassing what is common or usual; exceptional
A special occasion.
A special treat.


Of special importance or significance; exceptional
An occasion of especial joy.


Distinct among others of a kind
A special type of paint.
A special medication for arthritis.


Relating to or directed toward a particular person, group, or purpose
Called his father with especial birthday wishes.
Gave especial attention to the decorations.


What does special mean?

Unique or exceptional in some way.

Can special and especial be used interchangeably?

In many contexts, yes, but especial carries a more specific connotation.

Is special commonly used?

Yes, it's widely used in various contexts.

Is especial still commonly used?

No, it's less common and somewhat archaic.

How is especial used in a sentence?

"This matter is of especial concern to the committee."

Can something be special without being especial?

Yes, special is broader and doesn't always imply the specific importance that especial does.

What is an example of using special?

"She received a special award for her work."

What does especial mean?

Particularly important or relevant in a specific context.

Is special more general than especial?

Yes, it applies to a broader range of contexts.

Can especial be negative?

It's neutral, focusing on the importance rather than the nature of what it describes.

Would especial be used to describe a person?

Less commonly, it's more about the specific importance of something to someone.

Does especial imply personal relevance?

Often, it denotes specific importance to an individual or situation.

Does special refer to a quality or a purpose?

It can refer to both.

Is especial used to highlight significance?

Yes, especially in a specific context or to an individual.

Is especial versatile in its usage?

No, its usage is more limited and focused on specific importance.

Does special have a positive connotation?

Generally, it implies something positive or noteworthy.

Is especial a formal word?

It tends to appear in more formal or literary contexts.

Is especial used in everyday conversation?

It's less common in casual speech.

Does special have different meanings?

Yes, it can mean unique, designed for a specific purpose, or extraordinary.

Can a person be described as special?

Yes, often in the context of having unique qualities or importance.
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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