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char·ac·ter (kărək-tər)
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n.
1.
a. The combination of mental characteristics and behavior that distinguishes a person or group. See Synonyms at disposition.
b. The distinguishing nature of something. See Synonyms at quality.
2.
a. Moral strength; integrity: an educational program designed to develop character.
b. Public estimation of someone; reputation: personal attacks that damaged her character.
3. Biology A structure, function, or attribute of an organism, influenced by genetic, environmental, and developmental factors.
4.
a. A person considered as having a specific quality or attribute: "Being a man of the world and a public character, [he] took everything as a matter of course" (George Eliot).
b. A person considered funny or eccentric: catcalls from some character in the back row.
5.
a. A person portrayed in an artistic piece, such as a drama or novel.
b. A person or animal portrayed with a personality in comics or animation: a cartoon character.
c. Characterization in fiction or drama: a script that is weak in plot but strong in character.
d. Status or role; capacity: in his character as the father.
6. A description of a person's attributes, traits, or abilities.
7. A formal written statement as to competency and dependability, given by an employer to a former employee; a recommendation.
8.
a. A mark or symbol used in a writing system.
b. A Chinese character.
9. Computers
a. One of a set of symbols, such as letters or numbers, that are arranged to express information.
b. The numerical code representing such a character.
10. Mathematics The trace function of a representation.
11.
a. A style of printing or writing: "Here is the hand and seal of the Duke; you know the character" (Shakespeare).
b. A cipher or code for secret writing.
adj.
1. Of or relating to one's character.
2.
a. Specializing in the interpretation of often minor roles that emphasize fixed personality traits or specific physical characteristics: a character actor.
b. Of or relating to the interpretation of such roles by an actor: the character part of the hero's devoted mother.
3. Dedicated to the portrayal of a person with regard to distinguishing psychological or physical features: a character sketch.
tr.v. charac·tered, charac·ter·ing, charac·ters
Archaic
1. To write, print, engrave, or inscribe.
2. To portray or describe; characterize.
Idioms:
in character
Consistent with someone's general character or behavior: behavior that was totally in character.
out of character
Inconsistent with someone's general character or behavior: a response so much out of character that it amazed me.

[Middle English carecter, distinctive mark, imprint on the soul, from Old French caractere, from Latin charactēr, from Greek kharaktēr, from kharassein, to inscribe, from kharax, kharak-, pointed stick.]

charac·ter·less adj.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices

    Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.

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