Today, in the last of the ‘Describing character’ posts, we’re looking at words for a variety of negative characteristics, from the tendency to criticize others, the belief that you are better than everyone else.
Starting with traits that we associate with strong characters, a person who has very definite and sometimes unreasonable opinions may be said to be opinionated: They’re both quite opinionated so they don’t always get on. Someone who often argues with other people is argumentative: He won’t let anything go – he’s so argumentative.
A stubborn person is determined not to change their mind or change their plans, even when they should. It’s so obvious she needs to change her approach, but she won’t. She’s far too stubborn. A more emphatic (and informal) way of saying this is pigheaded: He was completely lost but too pigheaded to admit it and ask for directions.
Moving on now to ways of describing people who think they are better than other people, someone who is unpleasantly confident and clearly thinks they have more knowledge or better skills than anyone else may be described as arrogant: I found him arrogant and rude.
A person who shows that they think they are more important than others is sometimes described as self-important: I didn’t really like her, to be honest. She came over as rather self-important. A self-important person who speaks very seriously may be described as pompous: In the film, he’s portrayed as a rather pompous old man.
Meanwhile, someone who is kind to you, but in a slightly insulting way, suggesting that they think you are not as clever or important as them can be described as patronizing: I tried to explain the rules to her in a way that didn’t sound patronizing.
A person who is too quick to criticize other people’s behaviour, especially relating to moral issues, may be said to be judgmental: Don’t be so judgmental! You don’t know anything about her background. The more informal adjective judgy is also used: I try not to be too judgy about other people’s parenting.
Another way in which we can behave badly is in failing to consider other people when we act. Someone who is thoughtless doesn’t think about how their actions or words may cause problems for or upset others: He’s never intentionally hurtful but he can be a bit thoughtless now and then. A person who is tactless or insensitive says or does things that show they are not aware of what upsets other people: It was a bit tactless of Rachel talk so much about her relationship when she knows Klara and Dan have just split up.
Finally, an area of bad behaviour which we often complain about in others is selfishness. Someone who is only really interested in themselves and what they are doing is sometimes described as self-absorbed: I don’t think he’s even aware of Sarah’s feelings on the matter. He’s so self-absorbed. If a person behaves as if they deserve advantages just because of who they are, without earning them, they are often described as entitled: Born into money, she comes across as spoilt and entitled.
We’ve now come to the end of this series on describing characters. We hope you’ve found it interesting and useful. If you have any suggestions for other threads, do please let us know.