Meaning of CHARACTER in English

I. ˈkarə̇ktə(r), -rēk- also ˈker- noun

( -s )

Etymology: alteration (influenced by Latin character ) of earlier caracter, from Middle English, from Middle French caractère, from Latin character mark, sign, distinctive quality, from Greek charaktēr, from charassein to sharpen, cut into furrows, engrave; akin to Lithuanian žerti to scratch, scrape

1. : a distinctive differentiating mark:

a. : a conventionalized graphic device, token, or symbol typically single or simple in form especially impressed or engraved as an indication of ownership or origin or capable of being impressed or engraved

b. : a device indicating a special characteristic or relationship

the character of the fish is often used to indicate early Christians

c. : a graphic symbol (as a hieroglyph, ideograph, alphabet letter, punctuation mark, or shorthand mark) used as a unit in writing or printing

a typewriter keyboard with special characters

mathematical characters

d. : a conventionalized figure, representation, or expression

a medieval character of Christ

e. characters plural , obsolete : shorthand

f. Roman Catholicism : an indelible mark impressed on the soul by the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and holy orders by which the recipient is empowered to produce or receive something sacred

g. : a cabalistic, magical, or astrological emblem

charms, images, characters stamped of sundry metals — Robert Burton

h. : a particular set of letters or other symbols used in writing : alphabet

2. : characteristic: as


(1) : one of the essentials of structure, form, materials, or function that together make up and usually distinguish the individual : any feature used to separate distinguishable things (as organisms) into categories

(2) : the detectable expression of the action of a gene or group of genes — see unit character

(3) : the aggregate of distinctive qualities characteristic of a breed, strain, or type

b. : the complex of accustomed mental and moral characteristics and habitual ethical traits marking a person, group, or nation or serving to individualize it

it depended wholly on the governors' individual characters whether their terms of office were equitable or oppressive — John Buchan

to comprehend the full character of these United States — Ruth Suckow

c. : main or essential nature especially as strongly marked and serving to distinguish : individual composite of salient traits, consequential characteristics, features giving distinctive tone

each town came to have a character of its own — Sherwood Anderson

the president had taken those measures which gave to Union war policy its controlling character — Dict. of American History


a. : writing , inscription , printing ; also : what is represented in such writing, inscription, or printing

b. : style of writing or printing especially in physical qualities

you know the character to be your brother's — Shakespeare

c. : a private mode of communication in writing : cipher

4. obsolete : appearance : outward and visible quality or trait

5. : a piece of printer's type that produces a character

6. : position , rank , capacity , status

in the character of a slave

his character as a town official


a. archaic : a description, delineation, or detailed account of the qualities or peculiarities — now used of a person, but formerly of a thing

give the police a character of the thief


[translation of Greek charaktēr ]

: a descriptive often satiric analysis usually in the form of a short literary sketch of a human virtue or vice as embodied in a representative human being, of a general type of human character (as a busybody, an old man, a country bumpkin), or of a quality of a particular place or thing — most frequently applied to the form as it developed in 17th century English and French literature

c. : a written statement as to the behavior, habits, and competence of an employee given by an employer


a. : a person regarded as characterized by or exemplifying distinctive or notable traits : personage , personality

Caesar is a great historical character

the Toronto financier … an almost fabulous character in Canadian mining circles — J.D.Hillaby

b. : personality as represented or realized in fiction or drama

a play weak in character but strong in plot

also : a given representation or realization of this kind

the main character in the novel

c. : the personality or part which an actor recreates

d. : characterization especially in fiction or drama

a novelist good in both character and setting

e. : a unique, extraordinary, or eccentric person

the cherry, cheeky, undefeatable character — the cockney — London Calling

especially : a dramatic role calling for the representation of such a person

f. slang : person , individual , man

an underworld character

romantic characters will often camp out on the site — Jacquetta & Christopher Hawkes

9. : reputation especially when good

his association with evil companions detracted from his character

10. : a composite of good moral qualities typically of moral excellence and firmness blended with resolution, self-discipline, high ethics, force, and judgment

that stiffening of the moral fiber which we call character — F.A.Swinnerton

his eldest brother … had not character enough to reproach me — John Galsworthy

11. : the crimp of wool fiber especially with respect to its evenness

12. of a dog : style of action or deportment in field trial


symbol , sign , mark , note : character is likely to suggest a simple form or shape, sometimes the individual forms or devices that constitute signs or symbols. character is likely to be used in reference to familiar conventionalized patterns.

characters include letters of the alphabet, digits, simple musical notes, and so on

symbol , sometimes interchangeable with character , is likely to stress the fact that the device in question means or stands for something

a symbol is a sign, figure, or physical object the meaning of which is established by convention — Kurt Seligmann

in the expression Cu, the C and the u are characters; Cu is the symbol for copper

sign may be used to designate something less arbitrary and conventional than character , something that hints by its form at what is meant, as arrows as direction markers

symbols and signs, then, may be seen to differ in this wise: signs are proxy for the objects they represent; symbols are “vehicles for the conception of objects” — W.V.O'Connor

mark may be close to character in suggesting simplicity; it usually indicates something that is arbitrarily and conventionally adopted

consignee mark — a symbol placed on packages for export, generally consisting of a square, triangle, diamond, circle, cross, etc., with designated letters … for the purpose of identification — Marine Corps Manual

note , except in reference to musical notation or perhaps to punctuation marks, is now uncommon as a synonym for character. In various subjects use of these words is determined more by convention than by consideration of exact meanings and shades of connotation.

Synonym: see in addition disposition , quality , type .

- in character

- out of character

II. transitive verb

( -ed/-ing/-s )

1. : engrave , inscribe , write


a. archaic : represent , portray

b. : characterize

III. adjective

1. : portraying or adept at portraying a usually subordinate dramatic role whose distinctive mental or moral qualities are of first dramatic interest ; especially : portraying an unusual or eccentric personality often markedly different (as in age) from the player

a character actor

a character actress

2. : calling for the qualities of a character actor

a character part

character acting

IV. noun

: a symbol (as a letter or number) that represents information ; also : a representation (as in binary form) of such a character that may be accepted by a computer

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.