The Ultimate Character Traits List

The Ultimate Character Traits List
Photo by Caleb Fisher

The character traits list below is broken up into positive and negative character traits, with definitions of each included.

On the positive side we have values-based traits such as honesty, integrity, and morality; traits that, I’m sure you will agree, are universally good. On the negative side we have traits such as dishonesty, untrustworthiness, and disloyalty; traits that, again I’m sure you will agree, are to be avoided at all costs.

In this article, I’m going to dig into exactly what character traits are, as well as provide a list of positive and negative character traits in a person, with definitions of each.

Character Traits Definition

Character traits represent the way in which we behave on a consistent basis. They are a core feature of our underlying values, beliefs, and identity. Many of us possess positive and negative character traits, with the list of character traits that it’s possible for a person to have being seemingly limitless.

The Difference Between Character Traits and Personality Traits

The character traits definition above touches on this, but while personality traits are often immediately obvious when we meet someone new, a specific character trait of a person may take a while longer to become apparent. This is because while our character isn’t set at birth, it represents something much deeper than the quirks of personality and mannerisms alone, which can change over time.

Similarly, character traits are not habits. In the words of historian Doris Kearns Goodwin in her excellent biography of Abraham Lincoln, “Why was Lincoln so great that he overshadows all other national heroes? He really was not a great general like Napoleon or Washington; he was not such a skillful statesman like Gladstone or Frederick the Great; but his supremacy expresses itself altogether in his peculiar moral power and in the greatness of his character.”

Character Traits for Kids

Whether your child is in the second, third, or fourth grade, or well into middle school, high school, and beyond, it is important for kids and students of all ages to understand the value of living a life of good character.

Alongside having a solid morning routine, highly successful people often attribute their success to the strength of their character. For children to possess such character and be a success both now and in the future, it’s essential that they understand the underlying qualities of the below positive character traits, while rejecting the malice of their negative alternatives.

Now, read on for the ultimate character traits list, with definitions of each.

Positive Character Traits

Positive character traits are any character traits in a person that, one may argue, are overall “good” over the long term. Deep within all of us we want to be men and women of character. Underlying or not, we want our name to go hand in hand with the below positive character traits.

While it may be true that, as a whole, society doesn’t appear to outwardly value positive character traits as much as it used to, there is still endless personal value to be had in developing any number of the below common (and not-so-common) positive character traits, and the self-reliance that comes from possessing them.

When you define the way you want to act in this world, without the influence of any outside forces pushing you in one direction or another, you can be sure that the positive character traits you are developing will come to you, over time, for all the right reasons.

Here is the ultimate positive character traits list, alongside a brief definition of each:

  • Honesty: Doing what you say you’re going to do, when you’re going to do it. Laying out all the facts.
  • Integrity: Acting the same in private as you do in public. Being complete and incorruptible.
  • Morality: Displaying moral actions, speaking moral sentiments, and believing in moral justices. Today and always.
  • Loyalty: Your allegiances do not change. You are faithful to those you pledge your loyalty to, including your spouse, your country, your church, and even your local sports team.
  • Generosity: Giving unconditionally while respecting nothing in return. Being generous with your wealth, your love, and your time.
  • Humility: Feeling no pride or arrogance. Lacking ego in all its forms. Not caring for status or one-upmanship.
  • Responsibility: The state of being accountable to someone else. You can be responsible for the wellbeing of your spouse, your children, your parents, a core component of your job, and your employees.
  • Respectfulness: Giving attention. Listening when someone is speaking to you. Paying deference to your elders, considering others’ feelings.
  • Tolerance: Enduring a deviation from a standard, often toward a higher level of pain. Having sympathy toward those with beliefs or practices other than your own.
  • Reliability: You can be depended on to be consistent in anything you do, from turning up on time to completing the work you said you were going to complete.
  • Perseverance: Keeping going through thick and thin, weathering the storms of life. Moving forward despite consistent failures, difficulties, and obstacles.
  • Compassion: An awareness of the distress of others coupled with a desire to alleviate it that is quickly acted upon.
  • Fairness: Lacking favoritism toward one side, being impartial and allowing a result to play out that all sides can agree on.
  • Patience: Acting without complaint while experiencing long waits or monologues. Occasionally considered a negative character trait.
  • Focus: An ability to direct your attention to one key task and stick to it over the long term. Occasionally considered a negative character trait when taken to extremes.
  • Dependability: Your family and friends trust you to do what you say you’re going to do. Similar to honesty, integrity, and reliability.
  • Conscientiousness: Being meticulous and careful in all that you do, from building something to listening to someone.
  • Authenticity: Being true to who you are. Not putting on a show. Similar to integrity.
  • Optimism: Seeing the world and events under which you are placed favorably. Always believing in and working toward a better future.
  • Thoughtfulness: Being guided by thoughtful reasoning. Your beliefs, decisions, and actions are made after deep introspection.
  • Hardworking: Believing in the value of work, and in its essential quality when performed on a consistent basis.
  • Kindheartedness: Being sympathetic to those in need. Giving the shirt off your back to anyone who needs it.
  • Forgivingness: Being able to cease feelings of anger and resentment toward another person or yourself.
  • Self-discipline: The ability to control and regulate your behaviors in order to improve in a certain direction. Also referred to as self-control.
  • Sincerity: Displaying honest feelings directly from the heart. Similar to honesty, integrity, and reliability.
  • Politeness: Displaying consideration, tact, and courtesy at all times. Showing disrespect to no persons.
  • Courageousness: Displaying bravery when it is needed most. Keeping going despite the obstacles. Similar to perseverance.

Negative Character Traits

Negative character traits are any character traits in a person that, for the most part, we can all agree, are overall “bad” over the long term. While we may display some of the less cruel traits from time to time (cruelty in itself is one of the negative character traits listed below), we should want to avoid having any of the below traits seep into our character at any cost.

As with the list of positive character traits above, the negative character traits below represent the worst of the worst, save a couple of instances that have been highlighted.

Ensuring we do not develop these common (and not-so-common) traits is key to living a happy and fulfilling life.

Here is the ultimate negative character traits list, alongside a brief definition of each:

  • Dishonesty: Being predisposed to lying, deceit, and doing the opposite of what you say you’re going to do. The opposite of honesty.
  • Untrustworthiness: Consistently showing signs of being not dependable. A less malicious version of dishonesty.
  • Disloyalty: You change your allegiances whenever doing so suits you. You cannot be counted on. The opposite of loyalty.
  • Deceitfulness: Giving false impressions on purpose. The key phrase here is “on purpose.” Deceitful people choose to be deceitful.
  • Immorality: Displaying immoral actions, speaking immoral sentiments, and believing in immoral justices (the end justifies the means). The opposite of morality.
  • Cruelty: Inflicting pain or suffering on others because you can. “Cruelty is the point.” The opposite of kindheartedness.
  • Maliciousness: Choosing to do harm to someone for the sake of it. Similar to cruelty.
  • Vengefulness: Wanting to seek revenge by inflicting a punishment on someone for a prior injury, injustice, or offense.
  • Selfishness: Caring for your own welfare only, or caring for your own welfare above that of other people. Occasionally considered a positive character trait when in pursuit of a higher cause.
  • Greed: Continuing to desire more, regardless of how much you have already accumulated. This desire can be temporary or long-term.
  • Disrespectfulness: Not giving someone your attention. Not listening when someone is speaking to you. The opposite of respectfulness.
  • Impatience: A form of haste whereby you are unable to sit tight and wait your turn; instead favoring a more active approach. Occasionally considered a positive character trait. The opposite of patience.
  • Pessimism: Always expecting the worst possible outcome. Bringing people down. Not working toward a better future, because you don’t believe one can exist. The opposite of optimism.
  • Unforgivingness: Not being able to cease feelings of anger and resentment toward another person or yourself. The opposite of forgivingness.
  • Pettiness: Acting with cruelty regarding matters that are perceived to be unimportant. Also known as small-mindedness or passive-aggression.
  • Narcissism: Basking in ego. You can only believe good things about yourself, taking anything negative as a false attack.
  • Impoliteness: Showing disrespect to all persons, or to persons who you believe to be beneath you. The opposite of politeness.
  • Thoughtlessness: You do without thinking of the consequences for others. Your reasoning only considers your own wants. You are not introspective. The opposite of thoughtfulness.

I put together this list of positive and negative character traits with definitions to make it easy for you to recognize these traits in yourself, in others, and to figure out how you should go about gaining more positive traits while losing some negative ones.

If you’re interested in hearing more from me, be sure to subscribe to my free email newsletter, and if this list of character traits has been helpful, be sure to bookmark it so you can come back to it often. ∎

Benjamin Spall

Benjamin Spall

Benjamin Spall is the co-author of My Morning Routine (Portfolio). He has written for outlets including the New York Times, New York Observer, Quartz, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, CNBC, and more.