Extrovert or introvert? (Describing character, part 4)

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by Kate Woodford

Today’s post is the latest in a thread dedicated to describing people’s personalities. We’ve previously looked at adjectives and phrases for people who are relaxed and happy (Part 3), kind and mean (Part 2), and hard-working and lazy (Part 1). Today we focus on words and phrases meaning ‘sociable’ and ‘shy’.

Starting with ‘sociable’, a commonly used adjective for someone who is friendly and enjoys being with other people is outgoing: Tom is much more outgoing than her last boyfriend. A synonym of ‘outgoing’ is gregarious: Sara was always very gregarious, with a wide circle of friends.

A noun for a person who is confident in social situations and enjoys them is extrovert. (The opposite is introvert): One of my brothers is a real extrovert and the other is quite shy. Both words are also used as adjectives: extrovert / introvert personalities

An extrovert who loves social occasions is sometimes called, informally, a party animal: He was a real party animal when we were at college – he was out every night.

And what about near-synonyms for ‘shy’? Someone who is slightly embarrassed or nervous when speaking to new people may be described as awkward: Anna can be slightly awkward in company.

A slightly formal synonym for ‘shy’ is diffident: Unlike her sister, she was quiet and diffident.

A person, especially a child, who is shy and nervous around other people may be described as timid: I remember her as a rather timid child.

A rather negative adjective for a quiet, shy person who doesn’t attract attention is mousy: Parker plays the part of her mousy housemate.

The slightly formal adjective retiring, (usually heard in the phrase ‘shy and retiring’) describes someone who prefers not to socialize because they are shy: The lifestyle wouldn’t have suited him. He wasn’t the shy and retiring type.

In UK English, people who prefer not to mix with others may be said to keep themselves to themselves: They were quite private people. They kept themselves to themselves.

A loner is someone who is usually alone and has few friends: People who knew him at school described him as a loner. More extreme, a recluse lives alone and avoids contact with other people generally: The actress became a recluse in later life. There is also the adjective reclusive: Reclusive by nature, he lived alone for the last twenty years of his life.

Next month, in the last of these ‘Describing character’ posts, we’ll look at words for a variety of negative characteristics, ranging from the tendency to criticize others, to the belief that you are better than other people.

31 thoughts on “Extrovert or introvert? (Describing character, part 4)

  1. ssaerf.org Sschildrenrelief.com

    On Thu, Nov 5, 2020 at 4:21 AM About Words – Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog wrote:

    > Kate Woodford posted: ” by Kate Woodford Today’s post is the latest in a > thread dedicated to describing people’s personalities. We’ve previously > looked at adjectives and phrases for people who are relaxed and happy (Part > 3), kind and mean (Part 2), and hard-working and lazy” >

  2. Phuc Hoang

    Amazing. I m just so grateful for the post. There are some such great phrases as ‘shy and retiring, difident, mousy, recluse, reclusive’. They all come with very clear explanations. I really love this post.
    Many thanks again.

  3. Tatiana Balandina

    Thank you, Kate for your awesome information! I know all these words but every time I learn someting new. It’s great! And it’s interesting that quite a number of English words have become part of the Russian language. ( I mean word for word translation).

    1. Kate Woodford

      Hi! Well, in the sense that a lot of us have conflicting elements in our personalities, but I suppose most of us broadly speaking, lean one way or the other. Best wishes!

      1. Thanks for the reply.

        My request may sound hilarious, but I have written a post on how to effectively use the Cambridge online dictionary. The post discusses the many things one can learn from a dictionary entry. Unfortunately, I am unable to get it published on a blog like yours.

        Should you think an ordinary guy’s post can also make sense, please do let me know how I can share it with you for publishing.

        Nifras Thahir

      2. Hi again

        The editors of the Cambridge Dictionary would be interested to read your post. Please send it to the email address above, along with a short description of yourself (e.g. Are you a teacher and/or learner of English? What are your reasons for learning?)

        Many thanks!

    1. Kate Woodford

      Hi! There will be one more in this thread, but (in case you haven’t already read them), there are three others already published that you can access. Best wishes!

    1. Kate Woodford

      Hi Nifras! Thank you for your kind words. The Cambridge Dictionary editors are looking into how to use your post to help other learners. They will get back to you if they have any feedback or queries. Best wishes from Cambridge.

      1. Hi Kate,

        Thanks a lot. It’d be highly appreciated if you could leave your comments below my post. Your valuable comments will surely help me grow up as a writer.

      2. Hi Nifras

        Our blog contributors are very busy, so they need to limit their messages to answering questions that relate to their blog posts. Our editors will review your post and get back to you when they can.

        Best wishes

  4. mr. Litinsky

    Would you be so kind to write more wide sentence with the phrase “keep themselves to themselves”. I think I’ve got the meaning but nevertheless I need some bright example.

    1. Kate Woodford

      Hello! Sorry, I’ve only just picked this up. We might say, for example: ‘She’s quite a private person – she keeps herself to herself.’ Or ‘I didn’t get to know them very well. They tended to keep themselves to themselves.’ I hope that helps!

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