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 Characterizations of Continuous and Discrete $q$-Ultraspherical Polynomials We characterize the continuous $q$-ultraspherical polynomials in terms of the special form of the coefficients in the expansion $\mathcal{D}_q P_n(x)$ in the basis $\{P_n(x)\}$, $\mathcal{D}_q$ being the Askey--Wilson divided difference operator. The polynomials are assumed to be symmetric, and the connection coefficients are multiples of the reciprocal of the square of the $L^2$ norm of the polynomials. A similar characterization is given for the discrete $q$-ultraspherical polynomials. A new proof of the evaluation of the connection coefficients for big $q$-Jacobi polynomials is given. Keywords:continuous $q$-ultraspherical polynomials, big $q$-Jacobi polynomials, discrete $q$-ultra\-spherical polynomials, Askey--Wilson operator, $q$-difference operator, recursion coefficientsCategories:33D45, 42C05