I’m reading a book on English words from Latin and Greek elements and I came upon a very interesting etymology for this word; it comes from peculium, which was the private property given to a person; it was eventually generalized to the meaning of a person’s individual characteristic. The word is derived from pecus, “cattle,” which demonstrates its antiquity because at one time property consisted mainly of sheep and cows.
Origin: A borrowing from Latin. Etymon: Latin pecūlium.
Etymology: < classical Latin pecūlium money or property managed by a person incapable of legal ownership, private property, in post-classical Latin also the people of God (6th cent.) < pecū flock, herd, (plural) farm animals, occasionally also money ( < the same Indo-European base as FEE n.1) + a suffix of uncertain origin. With sense 1 compare earlier PECULIAR n. 3a.
Ancient etymologists (e.g. Varro De Lingua Latina 5. 95) explain the derivation of Latin pecūlium as due to the fact that wealth originally consisted in livestock; this is supported by the prevalent senses of the other words from this Indo-European base (see FEE n.1).
1. That which is allocated to a particular individual; a private or exclusive possession; (also) the particular concern of an individual. Also fig. Now literary and hist.In some later instances, influenced by sense 2. In religious contexts, cf. PECULIAR PEOPLE n.