English Vocabulary – Adjectives (Behaviour and Traits)

This article includes some adjectives which are mostly used for behaviour and traits. Adjectives with a negative connotation are followed by (-), those with a positive connotation are followed by (+), and those that are neither negative nor positive are followed by (-/+).
All the adjectives below can be used before a noun or after it, often with the verb to be.

blunt: (-/+)
If somebody is blunt, they say what they really think, even if what they say is impolite and will hurt or offend someone.
a blunt reply/ remark/refusal
To be blunt, I think that what he did was cowardly and pathetic.

brash: (-)
If somebody is brash, they are annoyingly loud, overconfident and aggressive.
That TV presenter is far too noisy and brash for my liking.

calculating: (-)
If somebody is calculating, they get what they want by careful and clever planning, without caring about anyone else.
Percy is disliked by most of his colleagues because of his sly and calculating ways of getting what he wants.

callous: (-)
If somebody is callous, they are cruel and heartless.
His callous disregard of her feelings upset her.

cantankerous: (-)
If somebody is cantankerous, they are bad tempered and tend to argue with people about insignificant things.
Paul is not an easy person to have as a friend, because he is so cantankerous.

cheerful: (+)
If somebody is cheerful, they are happy and in a good mood.
Why are you so cheerful today?

curt: (-)
If somebody is curt, they are very abrupt (and rude, as a result) when they talk to another person.
I knew from his curt tone that he was angry.

fickle: (-)
If somebody is fickle, they are not faithful or loyal to their friends
How can you have trusted someone as fickle as Joan?

(i) (-) If somebody is inquisitive, they are always trying to find out about other people’s lives, often by asking a lot of questions.
(ii) (+) interested in many different things and always wanting to know more about them (often used about children).
She was nervous. The man in front of her was being unusually inquisitive.
He is a very inquisitive child. He’s going to love school.

meticulous: (-/+)
If somebody is meticulous, they are very careful about what they do, paying attention to small details and making sure that everything is correct or in order.
Mother was always meticulous about her appearance.

persistent: (-/+)
If somebody is persistent, they refuse to give up, despite difficulties or opposition.
The customer was most persistent and refused to speak to anyone but the manager.

reckless: (-)
If somebody is reckless, they do dangerous things without thinking about the consequences of their actions (a reckless driver).
[Note: reckless driving also used to describe actions]
That was a very reckless thing to do. Do you realise you put your own life in danger?

ruthless: (-)
If somebody is ruthless, they are cruel and cold and have no mercy or feelings for others.
[Note: also used to describe actions] a ruthless decision/(in football) a ruthless tackle.
The dictator was ruthless in silencing opposition and had the mass media strictly censored.

squeamish: (-/+)
If somebody is squeamish, they do not like the sight of, and are usually upset by, unpleasant things such as blood or needles.
This horror film is not for people who are squeamish.

sullen: (-)
If somebody is sullen they are bad tempered and do not speak much.
Rob sat in his room, in one of his sullen moods again.

unscrupulous: (-)
If somebody is unscrupulous, they are prepared to act in an immoral and dishonest way to get what they want
He’s probably the most unscrupulous businessman I’ve ever met. He’d do anything to make a profit.

volatile: (-)
If somebody is volatile, they lose their temper very quickly and very easily.
We need someone who is calm, patient and level-headed. Joe is far too volatile.

withdrawn: (-/+)
If somebody is withdrawn, they are very quiet and do not like talking to others.
Katy is so withdrawn and introverted that you can hardly get a word out of her.

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