Words, Idioms, and Phrases to Describe People

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There are so many different words, idioms, and phrases to describe people and personalities. We describe how they think, how they act, and how they show up in the world. Today I’ll give you a selection of adjectives that I highly suggest you use when you need to describe yourself. You might use them in an interview or another opportunity in your professional life.

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Let’s Keep it Positive!

This week, let’s keep it positive. Let’s talk about how to describe people in a positive light with advanced words, phrases, and idioms. If you repeat the words with me, you’ll  improve your listening skills, your speaking skills, and your pronunciation!

We’ll explore adjectives in categories as opposed to a long list of random adjectives or an  alphabetically organized list. This is the best way to actually memorize vocabulary in general. By listing these personality traits according to their general meaning, you can associate them together – that’s how our brain works!


Category 1 – A Nice Person

Probably the most basic way to describe someone positively is that they are nice. A more advanced word that means nice is affable. Don’t use affable in conversation, but you could use it in writing.

More synonyms for nice include kind, considerate, or thoughtful. The word amicable means polite, friendly, or respectful. Other synonyms include warmhearted, kind, and generous.

Instead of saying “She’s nice” all the time, try using some of these other adjectives. She might be cheerful, helpful, or selfless. Selfless means that this person is so helpful they even help someone else before they help themselves. You could also say they have a heart of gold.

Courteous is also like considerate, and other words you could use are thoughtful and respectful.

A diplomatic person is able to deal with difficult people or difficult situations. You could also use the word tactful.


Category 2 – A Smart Person

If someone is smart, you could also say they are bright. She’s so bright, she’s witty, she’s quick-witted. If she has quick-witted humor, it means she is very funny, but in a smart and clever way.

If a person is clever, you could also say they are brilliant, intelligent, or alert. Someone who is alert is smart, but it could also mean that they are a little bit anxious, always watching for the next thing that could happen.

You could also describe a smart person as a smart cookie. She’s a smart cookie. I don’t know why we use the word “cookie,” but it’s a great idiom to use.

A smart person may be a whiz kid – this is not just for children, but a whiz kid describes someone who is smart. Keep in mind, though, that whiz kid is casual, so you wouldn’t describe your boss this way. You could use it for a colleague, or someone on the same level as you, like a friend or a classmate.


Category 3 – Personality Type A or Type B

You can say that someone is a type A, or type B personality. Type A is someone who is a little high-strung, or uptight. Maybe they don’t relax very easily, maybe they are a bit tense. But to keep it positive, a type A person can be someone who is organized, determined, put-together, and ambitious. They are meticulous and detail-oriented. Their eyes are on the prize, meaning that they are goal-oriented.

A type A person could have eagle eyes, meaning that they see all the details. This is the kind of person who has it all together, someone you want to have as your lawyer, helping you with a detailed contract.

A type B person, on the other hand, is a more easygoing, laid-back, go with the flow type of person. Type B can be more spontaneous, creative, and imaginative. On the negative side, though, type B’s can be scatterbrained or spacey, but the good thing is that they can be adaptable, down to earth, and in general, happy campers.

I would say I’m a little bit of both type A and type B. It depends on the day! What about you? Are you more type A, or type B?


Category 4 – Introverted and Extroverted

A person who is introverted tends to spend more time on their own. An extrovert likes to be with other people.

If you are extroverted, you might be funny and have a good sense of humor. They might be a barrel of laughs, or a live wire. A live wire is someone who is quite energetic, always cracking jokes. A live wire is also full of life, full of energy, lively and exuberant. Exuberant is such a great word! It’s fun to say “exuberant.”

Someone might have a zest for life, or joie de vivre. Yes, we use this phrase in English even though it is French. Personally I love when I find phrases from other languages that we use in English.  Can you think of any others?


Describe Yourself Positively for a Professional Situation

This lesson wouldn’t be complete without talking about how to describe yourself in a positive light for an interview or professional situation, and also how to describe other people who might be strong leaders or someone you want to recommend.

1.  Open-minded

We don’t say broad-minded. I think that is more British English. Someone who is open-minded is open to new ideas. This is important when you’re a leader, and when you want to learn new things in an industry. You want to stay on the cutting edge if you are pioneering. Pioneering means that you’re an early adopter of a new idea. You are staying on the cutting edge, always learning about new technology and trying it out.

2.  Trustworthy

Being reliable, trustworthy, dependable, or a solid person are all really important when you have a leadership role. Can people count on you? Can they rely on you? If they can, then you’re dependable. You show up, you do what you said you would do, you are a man of his word or a woman of her word.

3.  Decisive

It’s important to be decisive, which means to be able to make decisions. To be frank means to be honest and straightforward. If you are frank, you don’t beat around the bush. To beat around the bush means to say, “ah, well, I don’t know, I’m not sure.” To beat around the bush means you are not direct or straightforward, perhaps because you don’t want to give someone bad news.

4.  Sociable

Leaders are often sociable. They might be social butterflies – maybe a bit extroverted, at least for the purpose of networking. You could say that a social person is a people person, or gregarious. Gregarious is someone who finds it easy to talk a lot, but sometimes too much. So gregarious could be negative, but it basically means someone who’s very outgoing or extroverted. If you have the gift of gab, it just means it’s easy for you to talk with other people.

5.  Intuitive and Modest

On the other hand, a good leader could also be introverted. They could be more intuitive, or understand something with a gut feeling as opposed to needing a lot of data. Modest means that you aren’t full of yourself. You’re not boastful or egotistical, so even though you have achieved a lot and are a good leader, you are still modest.

6.  Action Taker

If you are an action taker, you take action, you are proactive, or a go-getter. Other words are ambitious and assertive.

7. Calm Yet Passionate

You don’t want to be overly emotional, but calm and even-keeled. You want to be rational, and have a poker face. A poker face means that you don’t show your feelings, or give any hints about what you are thinking. This could be slightly negative depending on the situation. Even though you don’t want to be overly emotional, you do want to be passionate. Passionate about your work, passionate about your goals, and passionate about achieving things.

8.  Persistent

If you are persistent, you are resilient. If you fall down, you get back up and try again. If at first you don’t succeed, you try again. You are goal-oriented, driven, confident or self-confident. You could be the salt of the earth. Salt of the earth refers to someone who is honest, straightforward, and hard-working.

9. Optimistic

If you are optimistic, you think positively. You could be resourceful, meaning that you are creative in finding resources. If you are versatile, you can do a lot of different things. A versatile person could also be called a jack of all trades. If you are a linchpin, it means that you are necessary and irreplaceable. You do things that only you can do.

Ways to Describe Other People

Next is a mover and a shaker. I would probably only use this to describe someone else. It would sound a little strange if I said, “I’m a real mover and a shaker.” This just means that you take action, you’re always trying new things. You network with people and you get things done. You are out and about in the world. People know who you are and that you are interesting and fun. You’re bubbly, never stagnant, and you don’t stay in one place or do the same thing for very long.

And finally, here are a couple more adjectives that I would only use to describe other people. A  top dog is someone who is really in the top one percent of their group. A top dog or a major player is someone who is influential in their space, their profession, or their company.

What Is Your Personality Like?

Which of these words, idioms, and phrases would your friends use to describe you? Tell me in the comments! Practice using some of these adjectives and idioms that describe personality. And don’t forget that we have new lessons each week! Click here to get free lessons delivered to your email inbox.

If you enjoyed this lesson, you’ll want to be sure to watch this lesson about more ways to sound confident and professional in English. And don’t forget, you are an amazing person and you will go far with your English if you keep practicing and learning! Don’t quit, don’t give up, and I’ll talk to you again next week!

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