character

1 of 3

noun

char·​ac·​ter ˈker-ik-tər How to pronounce character (audio)
ˈka-rik-
plural characters
1
a
: 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.
2
a
: someone who appears in a book, movie, etc. : a representation of an individual personality in a fictional or dramatic work
a character in a play
the novel's main/lead/central character
a minor/supporting character
fictional characters
a cartoon character
… spends her days scripting stories for an entertainment company about background characters in video games.Lauren Sarner
see also non-player character
b
: the personality or part which an actor recreates
an actress who can create a character convincingly
c
: an avatar in a video game
There will be a bevy of cosmetic items to purchase …, allowing players to totally customize their charactersMichael Kelly
d
: characterization especially in drama or fiction
a novelist good in both character and setting
e
: person, individual
a suspicious character
f
: a person marked by notable or conspicuous traits
quite a character
3
: moral excellence and firmness
a man of sound character
4
a
: 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
e(1)
(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
7
8
: a short literary sketch of the qualities of a social type
characterless adjective

character

2 of 3

adjective

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

character

3 of 3

verb

charactered; charactering; characters

transitive verb

1
b
archaic : represent, portray
2
archaic : engrave, inscribe
Phrases
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.

Did you know?

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.

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

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. 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 character of 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. Verb formerly charactered as “the dark ages,” that period of history may not have been quite so benighted as once thought
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Making history:Jenn never saw herself as a main character. Kimi Robinson, USA TODAY, 9 July 2024 As previously announced, Season 2 will introduce a beloved character from the J.R.R. Tolkien novel, Tom Bombadil (played by Rory Kinnear). Anthony D'alessandro, Deadline, 8 July 2024
Adjective
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
Verb
The number of sharks tagged per hour has been increasing over the past 20 years, but Chapman wouldn't character the rise in numbers as an overpopulation or infestation. Julia Jacobo, ABC News, 26 Apr. 2024 After all, as Katherine Jellison, a professor of American history at Ohio University, pointed out, clothes serve as an access point to character for the watching world, one that is familiar or exciting, relatable or aspirational. Vanessa Friedman, New York Times, 10 Apr. 2024 See all Example Sentences for character 

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.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

Noun

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

Adjective

1841, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

1555, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

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

Dictionary Entries Near character

Cite this Entry

“Character.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/character. Accessed 16 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

character

noun
char·​ac·​ter
ˈkar-ik-tər
1
a
: a mark or symbol (as a letter or numeral) used in writing or printing
b
: a symbol (as a letter or number) that represents information
also : something standing for such a character that may be accepted by a computer
2
a
: a distinguishing feature : characteristic
b
: the group of qualities that make a person, group, or thing different from others
c
: the bodily expression (as eye color or leaf shape) of the action of a gene or group of genes
3
: an odd or peculiar person
4
: a person in a story, novel, or play
5
6
: moral excellence
hard work builds character
characterless
-ləs
adjective

Medical Definition

character

noun
char·​ac·​ter ˈkar-ik-tər How to pronounce character (audio)
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

More from Merriam-Webster on character

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