[ kar-ik-ter ]
/ ˈkær ɪk tər /
Save This Word!
See synonyms for: character / characters / characterless on Thesaurus.com

  1. (of a part or role) representing a personality type, especially by emphasizing distinctive traits, as language, mannerisms, physical makeup, etc.
  2. (of an actor or actress) acting or specializing in such roles.
verb (used with object) Archaic.
to portray; describe.
to engrave; inscribe.
There are grammar debates that never die; and the ones highlighted in the questions in this quiz are sure to rile everyone up once again. Do you know how to answer the questions that cause some of the greatest grammar debates?
Question 1 of 7
Which sentence is correct?

Idioms about character

    in character,
    1. in harmony with one's personal character or disposition: Such behavior is not in character for him.
    2. in accordance with the role or personality assumed in a performance: an actor in character.
    out of character,
    1. out of harmony with one's personal character or disposition: Her remarks were out of character.
    2. away from the role or personality assumed in a performance: The actor stepped out of character.

Origin of character

1275–1325; <Latin <Greek charaktḗr graving tool, its mark, equivalent to charak- (base of charáttein to engrave) + -tēr agent suffix; replacing Middle English caractere<Middle French <Latin, as above

synonym study for character

1. Character, individuality, personality refer to the sum of the characteristics possessed by a person. Character refers especially to moral qualities, ethical standards, principles, and the like: a man of sterling character. Individuality refers to the distinctive qualities that make one recognizable as a person differentiated from others: a woman of strong individuality. Personality refers particularly to the combination of outer and inner characteristics that determine the impression that a person makes upon others: a child of vivid or pleasing personality. 5. See reputation.


char·ac·ter·less, adjectiveun·char·ac·tered, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does character mean?

A character is a person in a story, as in Princess Leia is my favorite Star Wars character.

A character is someone who appears in a story, whether the story is fiction or nonfiction. It can also be used to refer to a role in a play or film that an actor plays, as in Tony’s character in the play doesn’t have any lines, but he’s still important to the plot.

Character is also the collection of features and traits that make a person’s image and personality, as in Ishir’s character was one of honesty and friendship. If someone seems characterless, they don’t have traits that stand out, although everyone has personality traits.

Character can also refer to a person’s moral or ethical quality. If you are a person of good character, you are trustworthy and reliable.

Related to that, if you have character, you are honest and courageous or have integrity.

Additionally, a character is a specific symbol or image that is used in writing messages. The words you are reading are written in letters, or characters, that make up the Latin alphabet. Punctuation marks and numerals (1, IX) are also characters. They are called symbols as well.

Example: I can’t believe that my favorite character died in the show last night.

Where does character come from?

The first records of the term character come from around the 1270s. It ultimately comes from the Greek charaktḗr, meaning “graving tool or its mark.” A character meaning “mark” can refer to a symbol or a letter.

In acting, the idioms in character and out of character are used to describe whether an actor is speaking as their role (in character) or as themselves (out of character). You can also use these idioms to describe how someone is acting. If your brother usually sleeps until noon, it is in character for him to sleep until noon and out of character to sleep only until 10 am.

Did you know … ?

What are some other forms related to character?

  • characterful (adjective)
  • characterless (adjective)
  • uncharactered (adjective)

What are some synonyms for character?

What are some words that share a root or word element with character

What are some words that often get used in discussing character?

How is character used in real life?

As a letter or symbol, character almost always references a written work. As a trait, it normally references a specific person.


Try using character!

Is character used correctly in the following sentence?

It takes a lot of character to leave your hometown and start all over.

How to use character in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for character

/ (ˈkærɪktə) /

verb (tr)
to write, print, inscribe, or engrave
rare to portray or represent

Derived forms of character

characterful, adjectivecharacterless, adjective

Word Origin for character

C14: from Latin: distinguishing mark, from Greek kharaktēr engraver's tool, from kharassein to engrave, stamp
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

Scientific definitions for character

[ kărək-tər ]

Genetics A structure, function, or attribute determined by a gene or a group of genes.
Computer Science A symbol, such as a letter, number, or punctuation mark, that occupies one byte of memory. See more at ASCII.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for character


A person in a literary work. For example, Ebenezer Scrooge is a character in A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Other Idioms and Phrases with character


see in character; out of character.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.