: 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
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 characterof 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
My character’s old enough to vote and actually older than some players in the game.
Jonathan Lee, Washington Post, 28 Nov. 2022 Taking this note, DuVernay conjured magic, creating the Nova Bordelon character, who didn’t exist in the book but became the show’s spiritual anchor.
Tanisha C. Ford, Time, 28 Nov. 2022 These are not so much movies featuring warfare as films where warfare is its own character, its own force that acts on and motivates other characters and narrative events.
Josh St. Clair, Men's Health, 28 Nov. 2022 That's because it was totally inspired by her iconic character, Lizzie McGuire!
Seventeen.com Editors, Seventeen, 28 Nov. 2022 Danny DeVito’s character, an oblivious family man who moves to town, decks his house with enough lights that it can be seen by cosmonauts, and drives his neighbor, played by Matthew Broderick, bonkers in the process.
Deanna Janes, Harper's BAZAAR, 28 Nov. 2022 As Bad Sisters‘ John Paul, Bang might just be the least likable character on television — a petty boor of a man whose only apparent joy in life comes from tormenting others.
Angie Han, The Hollywood Reporter, 25 Nov. 2022 Another character Wednesday butts heads with, Gwendoline Christie’s mysterious Principal Larissa Weems, drew fashion inspiration from a Hitchcock classic.
Katcy Stephan, Variety, 25 Nov. 2022 The character, the care, and the brotherhood of this football team, fought through adversity and disappointment after every game.
Evan Dudley, al, 23 Nov. 2022
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
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 But the brothers hewed to character in their posts, which could not have been more exemplary and different.
Guy Martin, Forbes, 12 Apr. 2021 Researchers from Emory University found that Dominicans connected the outbreak to character flaws or unhygienic habits among immigrant Haitians, who faced structural problems including lack of access to safe water and sanitation.
Vaishnavi Chandrashekhar, Science | AAAS, 16 Sep. 2020 This is a game about moving through space and slaying demons, not character development or world-building.
Matthew Gault, Time, 19 Mar. 2020 His commitment to character specificity in detail and fearless pursuit of authenticity in his work have influenced not only myself, but entire generations.
Joey Nolfi, EW.com, 20 Jan. 2020 See More
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.
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