char·​ac·​ter | \ˈker-ik-tər, ˈka-rik-\

Definition of character 

(Entry 1 of 3)

1a : one of the attributes (see attribute entry 1 sense 1) or features that make up and distinguish an individual This is a side of her character that few people have seen.

b(1) : a feature used to separate distinguishable things into categories also : a group or kind so separated advertising of a very primitive character

(2) : the aggregate of distinctive qualities characteristic of a breed, strain, or type a wine of great character

(3) : the detectable expression of the action of a gene or group of genes

c : the complex of mental and ethical traits marking and often individualizing a person, group, or nation the character of the American people

d : main or essential nature especially as strongly marked and serving to distinguish excess sewage gradually changed the character of the lake

2a : one of the persons of a drama or novel

b : the personality or part which an actor recreates an actress who can create a character convincingly

c : characterization especially in drama or fiction a novelist good in both character and setting

d : person, individual a suspicious character

e : a person marked by notable or conspicuous traits quite a character

3 : moral excellence and firmness a man of sound character

4a : a graphic symbol (such as a hieroglyph or alphabet letter) used in writing or printing

b : a symbol (such as a letter or number) that represents information mathematical characters also : a representation of such a symbol that may be accepted by a computer

c : a magical or astrological emblem

d : alphabet

e(1) : writing, printing

(2) : style of writing or printing You know the character to be your brother's?— Shakespeare

(3) : cipher

f : a conventionalized graphic device placed on an object as an indication of ownership, origin, or relationship

5 : reputation the scandal has damaged his character and image

6 : position, capacity his character as a town official

8 : a short literary sketch of the qualities of a social type

in character

: 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



Definition of character (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : capable of portraying an unusual or eccentric personality often markedly different from the player a character actor

2 : requiring or involving the portrayal of an unusual or eccentric personality a character role


charactered; charactering; characters

Definition of character (Entry 3 of 3)

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Other Words from character


characterless \-​ləs \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for character


disposition, temperament, temper, character, personality mean the dominant quality or qualities distinguishing a person or group. disposition implies customary moods and attitude toward the life around one. a cheerful disposition temperament implies a pattern of innate characteristics associated with one's specific physical and nervous organization. an artistic temperament temper implies the qualities acquired through experience that determine how a person or group meets difficulties or handles situations. a resilient temper character applies to the aggregate of moral qualities by which a person is judged apart from intelligence, competence, or special talents. strength of character personality applies to an aggregate of qualities that distinguish one as a person. a somber personality

quality, property, character, attribute mean an intelligible feature by which a thing may be identified. quality is a general term applicable to any trait or characteristic whether individual or generic. material with a silky quality property implies a characteristic that belongs to a thing's essential nature and may be used to describe a type or species. the property of not conducting heat character applies to a peculiar and distinctive quality of a thing or a class. remarks of an unseemly character attribute implies a quality ascribed to a thing or a being. the attributes of a military hero

type, kind, sort, nature, description, character mean a number of individuals thought of as a group because of a common quality or qualities. type may suggest strong and clearly marked similarity throughout the items included so that each is typical of the group. one of three basic body types kind may suggest natural grouping. a zoo seemingly having animals of every kind sort often suggests some disparagement. 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

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.

Examples of character in a Sentence


… 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. 2009 Someone 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. 2007 Slowly, steadily, Och and Chris passed along their knowledge of the characterof various courses, and the way a race evolves tactically. — Lance Armstrong, It's Not About the Bike, (2000) 2001 Her 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.


formerly charactered as “the dark ages,” that period of history may not have been quite so benighted as once thought
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Connie Britton is known for playing red-state characters with enviable hair whom blue-state viewers love to obsess over. Julia Felsenthal, Vogue, "In Dirty John, Connie Britton Brings a Cautionary Tale to Life—And According to Her, the Timing’s Never Been Better to Talk About Con Men," 23 Nov. 2018 For the most part, previous Void experiences have tried to re-create locations, props, and characters from films with actual physical counterparts. Bryan Bishop, The Verge, "The Void’s Ralph Breaks VR puts players inside a giant interactive Disney movie," 21 Nov. 2018 Rajantie’s first name, Arttu, is pronounced like the Star Wars character R2-D2; a toy of the lovably squat droid sits atop his office computer at the Imperial College London. Adam Hadhazy, Discover Magazine, "Scientists Hunt for A Seeming Paradox: A Magnet With Only One Pole," 13 Nov. 2018 As per usual, there's a character-centric video to introduce Ashe's abilities. Hayden Dingman, PCWorld, "BlizzCon 2018: Warcraft III remastered, and Overwatch gets a new cowboy," 2 Nov. 2018 Within the first few minutes of the spinoff series, fans learned that Roseanne's character had passed away after getting knee surgery. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "Roseanne Barr Speaks Out After 'The Conners' Premiere Last Night," 17 Oct. 2018 Inside, the warehouse has more character than a typical gallery. Liz Stinson, Curbed, "Ai Weiwei’s first U.S. building is an artful block of concrete," 9 Oct. 2018 The source material is not unlike that which fuels the James Bond movie franchise: a stack of lively books by an ornery British author concerning an iconic British character who neither grows old nor dies. Annie Leibovitz, Vogue, "How Do You Reinvent Mary Poppins for 2018? Emily Blunt Has a Few Ideas," 8 Nov. 2018 Upon first glance, Vanessa’s royal character has a lot in common with Ashley Olsen’s Alyssa Callaway. Sara Delgado, Teen Vogue, "Vanessa Hudgens's "The Princess Switch" Is Reminding Fans of "The Lizzie McGuire Movie," "Monte Carlo," and More," 8 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

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, "Dog Praised as Hero for Saving Deer (Whether He Meant To or Not)," 18 July 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The similarities between Markle and Prince Harry and the Love Actually characters Sam and Joanna are eerie. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "7 Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Conspiracy Theories So Ridiculous You Have to Laugh," 18 July 2018 Unlike some other Victorian mystery series, this one hews less to period details and more to character development as Lenox unravels the mystery of the murder of a woman found in a trunk on an island along the Thames. Bethanne Patrick, The Seattle Times, "Six beach reads that bring more pleasure than guilt," 2 July 2018 But that might be because the pilot glosses over every aspect of the story, from art design to character development and plot construction. Adi Robertson, The Verge, "NBC’s new VR thriller Reverie is a schmaltzy take on techno-dystopia," 30 May 2018 That kind of explosiveness could make K-State a more formidable NCAA draw if Wade and Brown indeed are back, and the Wildcats also had to be encouraged by some solid performances off the bench and the testament to character that their rally was. Vahe Gregorian, kansascity, ""Grossed out:" Barry Brown's eye injury stifles K-State but bigger opportunity awaits | The Kansas City Star," 9 Mar. 2018 The story can't seem to decide which character to concentrate on, jumping from character arc to character arc like a hyperactive child and robbing any plot thread of any emotional heft. Patrick Cooley,, "'Pitch Perfect 3:' How to give an audience what it wants," 21 Dec. 2017 The main library downtown is asking fans to dress up as their favorite Doctor Who characters to parade through the building at 3:15 pm. Mike Danahey, Elgin Courier-News, "Elgin libraries host Doctor Who Day Saturday," 31 Aug. 2017 His commitment to character impressed the man himself. Jonas Shaffer,, "Orioles' Adam Jones is real star of the night at Baltimore's WWE Extreme Rules," 5 June 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'character.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of character


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4f


1841, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1555, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for character


Middle English caracter, from Latin character mark, distinctive quality, from Greek charaktēr, from charassein to scratch, engrave; perhaps akin to Lithuanian žerti to scratch


see character entry 1


see character entry 1

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Statistics for character

Last Updated

28 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for character

The first known use of character was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for character



English Language Learners Definition of character

: the way someone thinks, feels, and behaves : someone's personality

: a set of qualities that are shared by many people in a group, country, etc.

: a set of qualities that make a place or thing different from other places or things


char·​ac·​ter | \ˈker-ək-tər \

Kids Definition of character

1 : a mark, sign, or symbol (as a letter or figure) used in writing or printing

2 : the group of qualities that make a person, group, or thing different from others The town has special character.

3 : a distinguishing feature : characteristic the plant's bushy character

4 : a person who says or does funny or unusual things Your friend is quite a character.

5 : a person in a story or play

6 : the usually good opinions that most people have about a particular person : reputation She made an attack on his character.

7 : moral excellence She is a person of character known for her honesty.


char·​ac·​ter | \ˈkar-ik-tər \

Medical Definition of character 

1 : one of the attributes or features that make up and distinguish the individual

2 : the detectable expression of the action of a gene or group of genes

3 : the complex of mental and ethical traits marking and often individualizing a person, group, or nation

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