Laid-back and sunny (Describing character, part 3)

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by Kate Woodford

Today’s post is the latest in a thread devoted to describing people’s characters. In the previous two posts, we looked at ways of talking about people who are hard-working, ambitious, and lazy, among other traits. As usual, we start on a positive note, looking at words and phrases that describe people who are relaxed.

A common, informal adjective for someone who has a relaxed manner and doesn’t tend to worry about things is laid-back: I can’t imagine Tom getting stressed about anything. He’s so laid-back. Someone who rarely gets angry or upset with other people may be described admiringly as easy-going: Alice is great to work with – she’s very easy-going. If someone doesn’t get stressed or upset in stressful and difficult circumstances, you might say they are unflappable: Susannah is great when things get tricky. She’s completely unflappable.

And what about the opposite words that describe a person who is often stressed? We sometimes use the informal adjective stressy for this: My boss, unfortunately, is super stressy. Another useful adjective is uptight, which describes someone who is easily annoyed by other people because they are stressed: I didn’t find her easy to work with. She was a bit uptight.

Thinking now about happy people, two adjectives that describe both a happy mood and the characteristic of generally being happy are cheerful or cheery: Lucy was her usual cheerful self. / He gave us a cheery wave from the bus. Someone who is usually cheerful and positive may be also said to be sunny: She was a very sunny child. / He has a sunny disposition (= a happy character).

To emphasize that a happy person never seems worried about problems or responsibilities, you might use the adjective carefree: For a father of five, he always seems remarkably carefree. The sort of happy person who enjoys the present and doesn’t worry about the future is sometimes described as happy-go-lucky: In the film, she plays a happy-go-lucky character who always sees the best in everyone.  

An informal adjective meaning ‘happy’ but with the additional sense of ‘full of energy’ is bubbly: She’s a very bubbly character – she’s fun to be around. A slightly old-fashioned synonym that you sometimes hear British speakers of English use is jolly: He’s a very jolly sort of a person. Someone who usually expects good things to happen is optimistic: I’m generally fairly optimistic, I’d say. (The opposite is pessimistic.)

In the next of these ‘character’ posts, we’ll look at words around being sociable and shy.


20 thoughts on “Laid-back and sunny (Describing character, part 3)

    1. Denis

      Great question, Ang!
      Yes, there is the noun ‘laid-backness’ in the English language so you don’t even have to invent one, although native speakers of English quite often do it with different words, which is perfectly fine in this language. Nevertheless, it seems like the noun ‘laid-backness’ officially exists, so to speak, in American English since neither Cambridge nor Oxford have this noun included in their dictionaries. Instead, the noun ‘laid-backness’ may be found at Merriam-Webster Dictionary, which has been America’s leading and most-trusted provider of language information.

      Meanwhile, I’d like to add such adjectives as chirpy, gleeful, chuffed, & jovial along with a couple of colourful idioms – ‘as cool as a cucumber’ and ‘without a care in the world’.

    2. Kate Woodford

      Hi Ang! You could say ‘laidbackness’ although, to my British ear it sounds rather inelegant! Perhaps it’s used more in US English? Thanks for your lovely comment!

      1. Kate Woodford

        Hi Clara! Scroll up and on the top right of the screen, you’ll find a search box. Type ‘Describing character’ into that, and it should call up all three parts of this thread. Best wishes!

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