80 Positive and Negative Character Traits with Simple Definitions

Character traits list that includes definitions

As teachers, it is important to be able to teach students to recognize both positive and negative character traits. In High School, many of the characters students read and learn about fall into that “morally grey” category.

Character traits are critical for literary analysis because they enrich our understanding of a story and its elements, enabling us to delve deeper into the author’s intentions, themes, and messages.

By focusing on the attributes of a character – their personality, behavior, motives, and growth – we can comprehend their role and significance in the narrative, and how they influence not only the plot but also our emotional connection to the text.

Although analyzing character traits might seem simple at first, it can become a fascinating and intricate process that opens our eyes to the story’s various layers and meanings.

One of the main reasons character traits are essential for literary analysis is they help reveal a story’s central themes.

In literature, themes are the recurring ideas or concepts that underpin a narrative, ultimately shaping its message and purpose.

Without character traits, we may struggle to identify these themes and understand their significance. 

Let’s explore some examples of both positive and negative character traits that we can use as a teaching tool.

Positive Character Traits

Positive character traits are those that express desirable qualities about someone’s behavior and personality.

These are all qualities which we should strive to cultivate in our students so that they may become well-rounded individuals with strong moral values.

Another important aspect of character traits in literary analysis is the way they contribute to character development.

From protagonists to antagonists, well-rounded and dynamic characters often undergo a journey of personal growth through their experiences in the narrative. By examining the evolution of a character’s traits over time, we can appreciate the author’s intentions for character arcs and how it may impact our interpretation of the story. 

In Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," Elizabeth Bennet's initial impressions of Mr. Darcy as arrogant and prideful change over time as she learns more about his true nature, ultimately leading to a transformed understanding of herself and society.

But, when it comes to literary analysis, I have my favourite list of character traits that come up more often for students. I’ve listed them below.

  • Affectionate – loving
  • Ambitious – full of motivation
  • Analytical – able to reason well
  • Appreciative – capable of being grateful
  • Charismatic – able to win over people’s support
  • Conscientious – hard working
  • Courteous – well mannered
  • Diplomatic – fair to other
  • Educated – intelligent
  • Expressive – able to communicate effectively
  • Generous – giving
  • Genuine – authentic
  • Humble – modest
  • Imaginative – creative
  • Industrious – hard-working, diligent
  • Ingenious – clever, imaginative
  • Introspective – capable of examining inner thoughts
  • Inventive- skilled, creative
  • Optimistic – positive
  • Perfectionist – seeking no errors/mistakes
  • Philosophical – wise, thoughtful
  • Practical – action oriented
  • Reflective – able to think and analyze
  • Reserved – able to restrain, control
  • Resilient – able to persevere, carry on
  • Resourceful – able to rely on a number of skills
  • Sincere – very honest
  • Trustworthy – able to be trusted
  • Valiant – brave
  • Witty – sharp intelligence

Positive Connotation Character Traits

Positive connotation refers to the emotional and cultural associations that a word carries with it, which evoke favorable, pleasant, or desirable feelings.

In other words, when a term has a positive connotation, it generally suggests something that is seen as “good” or beneficial, making the listener or reader feel more optimistic or approving.

The connotations of a word often go beyond its literal or dictionary definition, as they encapsulate the subtle nuances that come from the way people use and respond to language.

Two words might have similar meanings, yet different connotations because one of them is associated with more positive emotions and images.

Positive Character Traits list with definitions

Negative Character Traits

Negative character traits are those that reflect undesirable qualities about someone’s personality or behavior.

For example, arrogance reflects an individual who is self-centered or egotistical. Other negative character traits include selfishness, rudeness, impatience, dishonesty, laziness and disrespectfulness.

  • Aggressive – bold, hostile
  • Aloof – keeps to oneself
  • Apathetic – showing little concern,
  • uninterested
  • Apprehensive – fearful
  • Argumentative – enjoys disputes
  • Assertive – bold, confident
  • Bewildered – confused
  • Bigoted – narrow minded
  • Calculating – manipulative
  • Callous – uncaring, insensitive
  • Conceited – arrogant
  • Condesending – looks down on others

Negative Connotation Words

Negative connotation refers to the unfavorable or disapproving associations, meanings, or emotions that certain words, phrases, or expressions may carry.

It is the implicit, subtle meaning of a word that can evoke negative feelings or assumptions about something, despite its literal meaning being neutral or positive. Negative connotations often stem from cultural, historical, and social contexts that have shaped the way people perceive certain words or expressions.

Over time, these contexts have influenced the emotional response that individuals have to different terms, leading them to develop negative associations with certain words.

For instance, the word ‘aggressive’ may have a negative connotation, as it may evoke feelings of hostility and anger, which are generally perceived as unfavorable. In contrast, the word ‘assertive’ is often seen as having a positive connotation, as it is associated with confidence and self-assuredness.

Character traits are fundamental to a nuanced and thorough literary analysis. They provide insights into the story’s themes, character development, conflicts, and personal connections to the reader, all while promoting cognitive engagement and critical thinking skills. By appreciating the subtleties and complexities of character traits, we can enrich our understanding of literature and the human condition.