character

When Martin Luther King said he looked forward to the day when all Americans would be judged solely "by the content of their character," he was talking about a person's essential qualities.

"Just because you are a character doesn't mean you have character," a guy called The Wolf advises a young woman named Raquel in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. The line illustrates three different senses of the word, which can mean "moral strength or reputation" (what Raquel lacks), "a person in a work of fiction" (what The Wolf and Raquel literally are), or, by extension, "a colorful personality" (what Raquel has). A fourth usage is "the distinctive nature of a person or thing," a meaning reflected in the word's origins. In Greek, a kharaktēr was a stamping tool, used to give something a distinctive mark.

PRIMARY MEANINGS OF: character

1
n
a characteristic property that defines the apparent individual nature of something
2
n
a person of a specified kind (usually with many eccentricities)
3
nv
a written symbol that is used to represent speech
engrave or inscribe characters on
4
n
(genetics) an attribute (structural or functional) that is determined by a gene or group of genes
FULL DEFINITIONS OF: character
1

n a characteristic property that defines the apparent individual nature of something

“the radical character of our demands”
Synonyms:
lineament, quality
Types:
texture
the essential quality of something
Type of:
attribute, dimension, property
a construct whereby objects or individuals can be distinguished

n the inherent complex of attributes that determines a persons moral and ethical actions and reactions

“"education has for its object the formation of character"- Herbert Spencer”
Synonyms:
fiber, fibre
Types:
spirit
a fundamental emotional and activating principle determining one's character
braveness, bravery, courage, courageousness
a quality of spirit that enables you to face danger or pain without showing fear
cowardice, cowardliness
the trait of lacking courage
Type of:
trait
a distinguishing feature of your personal nature

n good repute

“he is a man of character
Type of:
reputation, repute
the state of being held in high esteem and honor

n a formal recommendation by a former employer to a potential future employer describing the person's qualifications and dependability

“requests for character references are all too often answered evasively”
Synonyms:
character reference, reference
Type of:
good word, recommendation, testimonial
something that recommends (or expresses commendation of) a person or thing as worthy or desirable
2

n a person of a specified kind (usually with many eccentricities)

“a real character
“a strange character
Synonyms:
case, eccentric, type
Type of:
adult, grownup
a fully developed person from maturity onward

n an imaginary person represented in a work of fiction (play or film or story)

“she is the main character in the novel”
Synonyms:
fictional character, fictitious character
Examples:
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Aladdin
in the Arabian Nights a boy who acquires a magic lamp from which he can summon a genie
Argonaut
(Greek mythology) one of the heroes who sailed with Jason in search of the Golden Fleece
Babar
an imaginary elephant that appears in a series of French books for children
Beatrice
the woman who guided Dante through Paradise in the Divine Comedy
Beowulf
the legendary hero of an anonymous Old English epic poem composed in the early 8th century; he slays a monster and becomes king but dies fighting a dragon
Bluebeard
(fairytale) a monstrous villain who marries seven women; he kills the first six for disobedience
James Bond
British secret operative 007 in novels by Ian Fleming
Brer Rabbit
the fictional character of a rabbit who appeared in tales supposedly told by Uncle Remus and first published in 1880
Paul Bunyan
a legendary giant lumberjack of the north woods of the United States and Canada
John Henry
hero of American folk tales; portrayed as an enormously strong black man who worked on the railroads and died from exhaustion after winning a contest with a steam drill
Cheshire cat
a fictional cat with a broad fixed smile on its face; created by Lewis Carroll
Chicken Little
a fictional character who was hit on the head with an acorn and believed that the sky was falling
Cinderella
a fictional young girl who is saved from her stepmother and stepsisters by her fairy godmother and a handsome prince
Colonel Blimp
a pompous reactionary cartoon character created by Sir David Low
Dracula
fictional vampire in a gothic horror novel by Bram Stoker
Don Quixote
the hero of a romance by Cervantes; chivalrous but impractical
El Cid
the hero of a Spanish epic poem from the 12th century
Fagin
a villainous Jew in a novel by Charles Dickens
Sir John Falstaff
a dissolute character in Shakespeare's plays
Father Brown
a Catholic priest who was the hero of detective stories by G. K. Chesterton
Faustus
an alchemist of German legend who sold his soul to Mephistopheles in exchange for knowledge
Frankenstein
the fictional Swiss scientist who was the protagonist in a gothic novel by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley; he created a monster from parts of corpses
Frankenstein's monster
the monster created by Frankenstein in a gothic novel by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (the creator's name is commonly used to refer to his creation)
Goofy
a cartoon character created by Walt Disney
Gulliver
a fictional Englishman who travels to the imaginary land of Lilliput in a satirical novel by Jonathan Swift
Hamlet
the hero of William Shakespeare's tragedy who hoped to avenge the murder of his father
Captain Horatio Hornblower
a fictional English admiral during the Napoleonic Wars in novels written by C. S. Forester
Iago
the villain in William Shakespeare's tragedy who tricked Othello into murdering his wife
Commissaire Maigret
a fictional detective in novels by Georges Simenon
Kilroy
a nonexistent person popularized by American servicemen during World War II
King Lear
the hero of William Shakespeare's tragedy who was betrayed and mistreated by two of his scheming daughters
Lilliputian
a 6-inch tall inhabitant of Lilliput in a novel by Jonathan Swift
Philip Marlowe
tough cynical detective (one of the early detective heroes in American fiction) created by Raymond Chandler
Wilkins Micawber
fictional character created by Charles Dickens; an eternal optimist
Mother Goose
the imaginary author of a collection of nursery rhymes
Mr. Moto
Japanese sleuth created by John Marquand
Othello
the hero of William Shakespeare's tragedy who would not trust his wife
Pangloss
an incurable optimist in a satire by Voltaire
Pantaloon
a character in the commedia dell'arte; portrayed as a foolish old man
Perry Mason
fictional detective in novels by Erle Stanley Gardner
Peter Pan
the main character in a play and novel by J. M. Barrie; a boy who won't grow up
Pied Piper of Hamelin
the title character in a German folk tale and in a poem by Robert Browning
Pierrot
a male character in French pantomime; usually dressed in white with a whitened face
Pluto
a cartoon character created by Walt Disney
Huckleberry Finn
a mischievous boy in a novel by Mark Twain
Rip van Winkle
the title character in a story by Washington Irving about a man who sleeps for 20 years and doesn't recognize the world when he wakens
Ruritanian
an imaginary inhabitant of Ruritania
Tarzan of the Apes
a man raised by apes who was the hero of a series of novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Tom Sawyer
the boy hero of a novel by Mark Twain
Uncle Remus
the fictional storyteller of tales written in the Black Vernacular and set in the South; the tales were first collected and published in book form in 1880
Uncle Tom
a servile black character in a novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Uncle Sam
a personification of the United States government
Sherlock Holmes
a fictitious detective in stories by A. Conan Doyle
Simon Legree
the cruel slave dealer in an anti-slavery novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Sinbad the Sailor
in the Arabian Nights a hero who tells of the fantastic adventures he had in his voyages
Snoopy
a fictional beagle in a comic strip drawn by Charles Schulz
Ali Baba
the fictional woodcutter who discovered that `open sesame' opened a cave in the Arabian Nights' Entertainment
Emile
the boy whose upbringing was described by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
protagonist
the principal character in a work of fiction
Houyhnhnm
one of a race of intelligent horses who ruled the Yahoos in a novel by Jonathan Swift
Little John
legendary follower of Robin Hood; noted for his size and strength
Little Red Riding Hood
a girl in a fairy tale who meets a wolf while going to visit her grandmother
Rodya Raskolnikov
a fictional character in Dostoevsky's novel `Crime and Punishment'; he kills old women because he believes he is beyond the bounds of good or evil
Robin Hood
legendary English outlaw of the 12th century; said to have robbed the rich to help the poor
Robinson Crusoe
the hero of Daniel Defoe's novel about a shipwrecked English sailor who survives on a small tropical island
Rumpelstiltskin
a dwarf in one of the fairy stories of the brothers Grimm; tells a woman he will not hold her to a promise if she can guess his name and when she discovers it he is so furious that he destroys himself
Shylock
a merciless usurer in a play by Shakespeare
Tristram
(Middle Ages) the nephew of the king of Cornwall who (according to legend) fell in love with his uncle's bride (Iseult) after they mistakenly drank a love potion that left them eternally in love with each other
Iseult
(Middle Ages) the bride of the king of Cornwall who (according to legend) fell in love with the king's nephew (Tristan) after they mistakenly drank a love potion that left them eternally in love with each other
Scaramouche
a stock character in commedia dell'arte depicted as a boastful coward
Svengali
the musician in a novel by George du Maurier who controls Trilby's singing hypnotically
Sweeney Todd
fictional character in a play by George Pitt; a barber who murdered his customers
Trilby
singer in a novel by George du Maurier who was under the control of the hypnotist Svengali
Walter Mitty
fictional character created by James Thurber who daydreams about his adventures and triumphs
Yahoo
one of a race of brutes resembling men but subject to the Houyhnhnms in a novel by Jonathan Swift
King Arthur
a legendary king of the Britons (possibly based on a historical figure in the 6th century but the story has been retold too many times to be sure); said to have led the Knights of the Round Table at Camelot
Sir Galahad
(Arthurian legend) the most virtuous knight of the Round Table; was able to see the Holy Grail
Sir Gawain
(Arthurian legend) a nephew of Arthur and one of the knights of the Round Table
Guenevere
(Arthurian legend) wife of King Arthur; in some versions of the legend she became Lancelot's lover and that led to the end of the Knights of the Round Table
Sir Lancelot
(Arthurian legend) one of the knights of the Round Table; friend of King Arthur until (according to some versions of the legend) he became the lover of Arthur's wife Guinevere
Merlin
(Arthurian legend) the magician who acted as King Arthur's advisor
Type of:
imaginary being, imaginary creature
a creature of the imagination; a person that exists only in legends or myths or fiction

n an actor's portrayal of someone in a play

Synonyms:
part, persona, role, theatrical role
Types:
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bit part, minor role
a small role
heavy
a serious (or tragic) role in a play
hero
the principal character in a play or movie or novel or poem
ingenue
the role of an innocent artless young woman in a play
name part, title role
the role of the character after whom the play is named
heroine
the main good female character in a work of fiction
baddie, villain
the principal bad character in a film or work of fiction
soubrette
a minor female role as a pert flirtatious lady's maid in a comedy
Type of:
characterization, enactment, personation, portrayal
acting the part of a character on stage; dramatically representing the character by speech and action and gesture
3

n a written symbol that is used to represent speech

“the Greek alphabet has 24 characters
Synonyms:
grapheme, graphic symbol
Types:
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allograph
a variant form of a grapheme, as `m' or `M' or a handwritten version of that grapheme
check character
a character that is added to the end of a block of transmitted data and used to check the accuracy of the transmission
superior, superscript
a character or symbol set or printed or written above and immediately to one side of another character
inferior, subscript
a character or symbol set or printed or written beneath or slightly below and to the side of another character
ASCII character
any member of the standard code for representing characters by binary numbers
ligature
character consisting of two or more letters combined into one
capital, capital letter, majuscule, upper-case letter, uppercase
one of the large alphabetic characters used as the first letter in writing or printing proper names and sometimes for emphasis
lower-case letter, lowercase, minuscule, small letter
the characters that were once kept in bottom half of a compositor's type case
type
printed characters
percent sign, percentage sign
a sign (`%') used to indicate that the number preceding it should be understood as a proportion multiplied by 100
asterisk, star
a star-shaped character * used in printing
dagger, obelisk
a character used in printing to indicate a cross reference or footnote
diesis, double dagger, double obelisk
a character used in printing to indicate a cross reference or footnote
alphabetic character, letter, letter of the alphabet
the conventional characters of the alphabet used to represent speech
blank, space
a blank character used to separate successive words in writing or printing
phonetic symbol
a written character used in phonetic transcription of represent a particular speech sound
mathematical symbol
a character that is used to indicates a mathematical relation or operation
rune, runic letter
any character from an ancient Germanic alphabet used in Scandinavia from the 3rd century to the Middle Ages
pictograph
a graphic character used in picture writing
ideogram, ideograph
a graphic character that indicates the meaning of a thing without indicating the sounds used to say it
radical
a character conveying the lexical meaning of a logogram
stenograph
a shorthand character
ASCII control character, control character
ASCII characters to indicate carriage return or tab or backspace; typed by depressing a key and the control key at the same time
small cap, small capital
a character having the form of an upper-case letter but the same height as lower-case letters
type family
a complete set of type suitable for printing text
case, face, font, fount, typeface
a specific size and style of type within a type family
ascender
a lowercase letter that has a part extending above other lowercase letters
descender
a lowercase letter that has a part extending below other lowercase letters
digram, digraph
two successive letters (especially two letters used to represent a single sound: `sh' in `shoe')
initial
the first letter of a word (especially a person's name)
A, a
the 1st letter of the Roman alphabet
B, b
the 2nd letter of the Roman alphabet
C, c
the 3rd letter of the Roman alphabet
D, d
the 4th letter of the Roman alphabet
E, e
the 5th letter of the Roman alphabet
F, f
the 6th letter of the Roman alphabet
G, g
the 7th letter of the Roman alphabet
H, h
the 8th letter of the Roman alphabet
I, i
the 9th letter of the Roman alphabet
J, j
the 10th letter of the Roman alphabet
K, k
the 11th letter of the Roman alphabet
L, l
the 12th letter of the Roman alphabet
M, m
the 13th letter of the Roman alphabet
N, n
the 14th letter of the Roman alphabet
O, o
the 15th letter of the Roman alphabet
P, p
the 16th letter of the Roman alphabet
Q, q
the 17th letter of the Roman alphabet
R, r
the 18th letter of the Roman alphabet
S, s
the 19th letter of the Roman alphabet
T, t
the 20th letter of the Roman alphabet
U, u
the 21st letter of the Roman alphabet
V, v
the 22nd letter of the Roman alphabet
W, double-u, w
the 23rd letter of the Roman alphabet
X, ex, x
the 24th letter of the Roman alphabet
Y, wye, y
the 25th letter of the Roman alphabet
Z, ezed, izzard, z, zed, zee
the 26th letter of the Roman alphabet
alpha
the 1st letter of the Greek alphabet
beta
the 2nd letter of the Greek alphabet
gamma
the 3rd letter of the Greek alphabet
delta
the 4th letter of the Greek alphabet
epsilon
the 5th letter of the Greek alphabet
zeta
the 6th letter of the Greek alphabet
eta
the 7th letter of the Greek alphabet
theta
the 8th letter of the Greek alphabet
iota
the 9th letter of the Greek alphabet
kappa
the 10th letter of the Greek alphabet
lambda
the 11th letter of the Greek alphabet
mu
the 12th letter of the Greek alphabet
nu
the 13th letter of the Greek alphabet
xi
the 14th letter of the Greek alphabet
omicron
the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet
pi
the 16th letter of the Greek alphabet
rho
the 17th letter of the Greek alphabet
sigma
the 18th letter of the Greek alphabet
tau
the 19th letter of the Greek alphabet
upsilon
the 20th letter of the Greek alphabet
phi
the 21st letter of the Greek alphabet
chi, khi
the 22nd letter of the Greek alphabet
psi
the 23rd letter of the Greek alphabet
omega
the last (24th) letter of the Greek alphabet
aleph
the 1st letter of the Hebrew alphabet
beth
the 2nd letter of the Hebrew alphabet
gimel
the 3rd letter of the Hebrew alphabet
daleth
the 4th letter of the Hebrew alphabet
he
the 5th letter of the Hebrew alphabet
waw
the 6th letter of the Hebrew alphabet
zayin
the 7th letter of the Hebrew alphabet
heth
the 8th letter of the Hebrew alphabet
teth
the 9th letter of the Hebrew alphabet
yodh
the 10th letter of the Hebrew alphabet
kaph
the 11th letter of the Hebrew alphabet
lamedh
the 12th letter of the Hebrew alphabet
mem
the 13th letter of the Hebrew alphabet
nun
the 14th letter of the Hebrew alphabet
samekh
the 15th letter of the Hebrew alphabet
ayin
the 16th letter of the Hebrew alphabet
pe
the 17th letter of the Hebrew alphabet
sadhe
the 18th letter of the Hebrew alphabet
qoph
the 19th letter of the Hebrew alphabet
resh
the 20th letter of the Hebrew alphabet
sin
the 21st letter of the Hebrew alphabet
shin
the 22nd letter of the Hebrew alphabet
taw
the 23rd letter of the Hebrew alphabet
polyphone, polyphonic letter
a letter that has two or more pronunciations
block capital, block letter
a plain hand-drawn letter
thorn
a Germanic character of runic origin
logogram, logograph
a single written symbol that represents an entire word or phrase without indicating its pronunciation
vowel
a letter of the alphabet standing for a spoken vowel
consonant
a letter of the alphabet standing for a spoken consonant
Type of:
printed symbol, written symbol
a written or printed symbol

v engrave or inscribe characters on

Type of:
engrave, grave, inscribe, scratch
carve, cut, or etch into a material or surface
4

n (genetics) an attribute (structural or functional) that is determined by a gene or group of genes

Types:
unit character
(genetics) a character inherited on an all-or-none basis and dependent on the presence of a single gene
Type of:
attribute
an abstraction belonging to or characteristic of an entity
WORD FAMILY
USAGE EXAMPLES