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. A feature that helps to identify, tell apart, or describe recognizably; a distinguishing mark or trait. Mathematics The integral part of a logarithm as distinguished from the mantissa: The characteristic of the logarithm 6.3214 is 6. Mathematics The least number of times the multiplicative identity in a ring needs to be added to itself to reach the additive identity, or, if the additive identity is never reached, zero. The integers have a characteristic of zero; the integers modulus 12 have a characteristic of 12.