: in accord with a person's usual qualities or traits
behaving in character
out of character
: not in accord with a person's usual qualities or traits
His rudeness was completely out of character.
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Traits of Character
Character demonstrates that a word may have many and varied meanings and yet still be easily understood by most listeners when used in disparate settings. We have little trouble distinguishing the meanings of the noun in “she had a fine and noble character,” “Bill is always joking; he’s such a character,” and “He was the last character to appear in the play,” not to mention its many other applications.
Character comes ultimately from the Greek charaktēr (“mark, distinctive quality”), which passed through Latin and French before landing in English. The Greek noun itself is derived from the verb charassein, meaning “to sharpen, cut in furrows, or engrave.” The literal sense of the noun (“an engraved or imprinted mark”) existed in Greek, Latin, and French side by side with the figurative one (“a distinctive quality”), and both senses were borrowed into English early on, with a variant of the figurative sense appearing first.
the sort of newspaper dealing in sensational stories
nature may imply inherent, essential resemblance rather than obvious or superficial likenesses.
two problems of a similar nature
description implies a group marked by agreement in all details belonging to a type as described or defined.
not all acts of that description are actually illegal
character implies a group marked by distinctive likenesses peculiar to the type.
research on the subject so far has been of an elementary character
Examples of character in a Sentence
Noun… this makes everyone believe not only that anyone can be a parent, but also that everyone ought to do it, even those who seem by character or inclination to be ill equipped.—Anna Quindlen, Newsweek, 27 Apr. 2009Someone with Alzheimer's may undergo a regression to a "second childhood," but aspects of one's essential character, of personality and personhood, of self, survive …—Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia, (2007) 2008"Beat" is old carny slang. According to Beat Movement legend (and it is a movement with a deep inventory of legend), Ginsberg and Kerouac picked it up from a character named Herbert Huncke, a gay street hustler and drug addict from Chicago who began hanging around Times Square in 1939 …—Louis Menand, New Yorker, 1 Oct. 2007Slowly, steadily, Och and Chris passed along their knowledge of the character of various courses, and the way a race evolves tactically.—Lance Armstrong, It's Not About the Bike, (2000) 2001Her character struck the Swede back then as a compound in which you'd find just about everything toxic to desperation and dread. At the core of her he could imagine a nucleus of confidence plaited just as neatly and tightly as her braided hair.—Philip Roth, American Pastoral, 1997
the unique character of the town
The building is very simple in character.
Their house has a lot of character. Verb
formerly charactered as “the dark ages,” that period of history may not have been quite so benighted as once thought See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis criticized for Danny Masterson character letters
Kutcher said Masterson’s family had asked the couple to write the letters after the actor was convicted.—Herb Scribner, Washington Post, 16 Sep. 2023 The characters have hardly been given opportunity to evolve beyond their first impressions.—J. Kim Murphy, Variety, 16 Sep. 2023 Oftentimes, the hero of these tales is white and aids the working-class characters on the sidelines.—Steven Vargas, Los Angeles Times, 16 Sep. 2023 The Halloween factor is still there, as is Branagh’s singularly peculiar Poirot, his franchise co-star of a multilayered mustache, and Ariadne Oliver, another regular Christie character who accompanies Poirot on his outings.—David Fear, Rolling Stone, 16 Sep. 2023 Jack Dutton Jack is a character in 1923 played by Darren Mann.—Emily J. Shiffer, Peoplemag, 15 Sep. 2023 Inside the main pad, there are more than 5,600 square feet of living space, with four en-suite bedrooms and all sorts of character features such as sash windows and tall ceilings.—Abby Montanez, Robb Report, 15 Sep. 2023 The film, directed by Roger Ross Williams, shows Saúl (played with fierce purpose and lacerating wit by Gael García Bernal) crafting the character of Cassandro, an exótico, a wrestler who performs in drag.—The New Yorker, 15 Sep. 2023 But Reymont was also in parts wonderfully evocative in his picturesque descriptions of characters, down to their costumes and mannerisms.—Etan Vlessing, The Hollywood Reporter, 15 Sep. 2023
For over 25 years, Emmy-award winning directors/producers Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine have jointly created multi-character documentary narratives that use the personal stories of their protagonists to paint a larger portrait of the human experience.—Alissa Simon, Variety, 3 Sep. 2021 The best shows and movies are often character dramas at heart; even Westworld was in its first season.—Wired, 9 July 2022 The success of the single has been remarkable for a multi-character theatrical piece.—Paul Grein, Billboard, 24 Mar. 2022 There’s a lot of inter-character conflicts that didn’t make the cut.—Scott Mendelson, Forbes, 21 May 2021 Character witnesses for Storm include a parade of foster puppies the Freeleys have taken in over the last month.—Sarah Maslin Nir, New York Times, 18 July 2017
Funny and sweet, the book is superbly narrated by Eunice Wong, whose versatile voice moves from character to character with ease and persuasiveness.—Katherine A. Powers, Washington Post, 25 May 2023 This results in a wine with a wild and brambly character rather than an oaky style.—Mike Desimone and Jeff Jenssen, Robb Report, 30 Mar. 2023 From rides, shows and parades to character interactions and dining experiences, fans of all ages can experience their favorite Disney movies in real life.—Lexie Sachs, Good Housekeeping, 22 Feb. 2023 But to retain its clout and character the liberal order needs restored leadership and difficult reforms.—The Economist, 18 June 2020 This is a sport whose major victories are accompanied by gauzy paeans to character.—Zach Helfand, The New Yorker, 17 Oct. 2022 And Lin told the Raptors Show that the curriculum will include everything from shooting hoops to character development and communication.—Kimmy Yam, NBC News, 16 June 2022 Well, one chief reason: To dramatize the passing of the superhero torch to sisterly character Yelena Belova — a role that Pugh embraced with athletic ferocity and quick comic aplomb.—Washington Post, 30 Dec. 2021 And without that depth, Spike’s buddy-cop dynamic with his main foil, Jet, does neither character any favors.—Cecilia D'anastasio, Wired, 19 Nov. 2021 See More
These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'character.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.
Noun, Adjective, and Verb
Middle English caracter, from Latin character mark, distinctive quality, from Greek charaktēr, from charassein to scratch, engrave; perhaps akin to Lithuanian žerti to scratch