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[kar-ik-tuh-rahyz] /ˈkær ɪk təˌraɪz/
verb (used with object), characterized, characterizing.
to mark or distinguish as a characteristic; be a characteristic of:
Rich metaphors characterize his poetry.
to describe the character or individual quality of:
He characterized her in a few well-chosen words.
to attribute character to:
to characterize him as a coward.
Also, especially British, characterise.
Origin of characterize
1585-95; < Medieval Latin charactērizāre < Greek charaktērízein. See character, -ize
Related forms
characterizable, adjective
characterizer, noun
mischaracterize, verb (used with object), mischaracterized, mischaracterizing.
noncharacterized, adjective
recharacterize, verb (used with object), recharacterized, recharacterizing.
uncharacterized, adjective
well-characterized, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for characterise
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I am not preparing to characterise Gutchkov, whose sincere patriotism I do not doubt.

    The Russian Turmoil Anton Ivanovich Denikin
  • This condition the Sufis characterise as self-annihilation (Fana).

  • They had their share, unquestionably, along with other influences which it would be inhuman to characterise as mere follies.

  • What beast save the goat could characterise Alexander and his reign?

  • To say that Roblado was furious would be to characterise very faintly the state he was in.

    The White Chief Mayne Reid
  • characterise the work of Praxiteles, comparing it with that of Phidias.

    Etheldreda the Ready Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey
  • The book perfectly renders the disillusion, languor and sentimentality which characterise a self-centred scepticism.

    The World's Greatest Books, Vol IX. Edited by Arthur Mee and J.A. Hammerton
  • Discord continued to characterise the relations of the two bodies.

  • The eighteenth lays down the distinctions which should characterise an Athrava, or priest.

    Curiosities of Superstition W. H. Davenport Adams
British Dictionary definitions for characterise


verb (transitive)
to be a characteristic of: loneliness characterized the place
to distinguish or mark as a characteristic
to describe or portray the character of
Derived Forms
characterizable, characterisable, adjective
characterizer, characteriser, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for characterise

chiefly British English spelling of characterize; for suffix, see -ize. Related: Characterised; characterising.



1590s, "to engrave, write," back-formation from characterization, or else from Medieval Latin characterizare, from Greek kharakterizein "to designate by a characteristic mark," from kharakter (see character). Meaning "to describe the qualities of" is recorded from 1630s; that of "to be characteristic" is from 1744. Related: Characterized; characterizing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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