verb (used with object), char·ac·ter·ized, char·ac·ter·iz·ing.

  1. to mark or distinguish as a characteristic; be a characteristic of: Rich metaphors characterize his poetry.
  2. to describe the character or individual quality of: He characterized her in a few well-chosen words.
  3. to attribute character to: to characterize him as a coward.

verb (tr)

  1. to be a characteristic ofloneliness characterized the place
  2. to distinguish or mark as a characteristic
  3. to describe or portray the character of

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.

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