1. the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.
  2. one such feature or trait; characteristic.
  3. moral or ethical quality: a man of fine, honorable character.
  4. qualities of honesty, courage, or the like; integrity: It takes character to face up to a bully.
  5. reputation: a stain on one’s character.
  6. good repute.
  7. an account of the qualities or peculiarities of a person or thing.
  8. a person, especially with reference to behavior or personality: a suspicious character.
  9. Informal. an odd, eccentric, or unusual person.
  10. a person represented in a drama, story, etc.
  11. a part or role, as in a play or film.
  12. a symbol as used in a writing system, as a letter of the alphabet.
  13. the symbols of a writing system collectively.
  14. a significant visual mark or symbol.
  15. status or capacity: the character of a justice of the peace.
  16. a written statement from an employer concerning the qualities of a former employee.
  17. Literature. (especially in 17th- and 18th-century England) a formal character sketch or descriptive analysis of a particular human virtue or vice as represented in a person or type.Compare character sketch.
  18. Genetics. any trait, function, structure, or substance of an organism resulting from the effect of one or more genes as modified by the environment.
  19. Computers.
    1. any symbol, as a number, letter, punctuation mark, etc., that represents data and that, when encoded, is usable by a machine.
    2. one of a set of basic symbols that singly or in a series of two or more represents data and, when encoded, is usable in a computer.
  20. a style of writing or printing.
  21. Roman Catholic Theology. the ineffaceable imprint received on the soul through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and ordination.
  22. (formerly) a cipher or cipher message.


  1. Theater.
    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.

  1. to portray; describe.
  2. to engrave; inscribe.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.


  1. the combination of traits and qualities distinguishing the individual nature of a person or thing
  2. one such distinguishing quality; characteristic
  3. moral force; integritya man of character
    1. reputation, esp a good reputation
    2. (as modifier)character assassination
  4. a summary or account of a person’s qualities and achievements; testimonialmy last employer gave me a good character
  5. capacity, position, or statushe spoke in the character of a friend rather than a father
  6. a person represented in a play, film, story, etc; role
  7. an outstanding personone of the great characters of the century
  8. informal an odd, eccentric, or unusual personhe’s quite a character
  9. an informal word for person a shady character
  10. a symbol used in a writing system, such as a letter of the alphabet
  11. Also called: sort printing any single letter, numeral, punctuation mark, or symbol cast as a type
  12. computing any letter, numeral, etc, which is a unit of information and can be represented uniquely by a binary pattern
  13. a style of writing or printing
  14. genetics any structure, function, attribute, etc, in an organism, which may or may not be determined by a gene or group of genes
  15. a short prose sketch of a distinctive type of person, usually representing a vice or virtue
  16. in character typical of the apparent character of a person or thing
  17. out of character not typical of the apparent character of a person or thing

verb (tr)

  1. to write, print, inscribe, or engrave
  2. rare to portray or represent

mid-14c., carecter, “symbol marked or branded on the body;” mid-15c., “symbol or drawing used in sorcery,” from Old French caratere “feature, character” (13c., Modern French caractère), from Latin character, from Greek kharakter “engraved mark,” also “symbol or imprint on the soul,” also “instrument for marking,” from kharassein “to engrave,” from kharax “pointed stake,” from PIE root *gher- “to scrape, scratch.” Meaning extended in ancient times by metaphor to “a defining quality.”

You remember Eponina, who kept her husband alive in an underground cavern so devotedly and heroically? The force of character she showed in keeping up his spirits would have been used to hide a lover from her husband if they had been living quietly in Rome. Strong characters need strong nourishment. [Stendhal “de l’Amour,” 1822]

Meaning “sum of qualities that define a person” is from 1640s. Sense of “person in a play or novel” is first attested 1660s, in reference to the “defining qualities” he or she is given by the author. Meaning “a person” in the abstract is from 1749; especially “eccentric person” (1773). Colloquial sense of “chap, fellow” is from 1931. The Latin ch- spelling was restored from 1500s. Character actor attested from 1861; character assassination from 1888; character-building (n.) from 1886.


  1. A distinguishing feature or attribute, as of an individual, group, or category.
  2. A structure, function, or attribute determined by a gene or group of genes.
  3. In psychoanalysis, an individual’s personality or temperament.

  1. Genetics A structure, function, or attribute determined by a gene or a group of genes.
  2. Computer Science A symbol, such as a letter, number, or punctuation mark, that occupies one byte of memory. See more at ASCII.

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

see in character; out of character.

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