Idioms and Other Expressions For Describing Character and Personality

Idioms Personality

The words and expressions in the box can all be used informally to describe different kinds of people. Use them to complete sentences 1 – 35. Note that many of the words / expressions have a negative connotation and are not very polite, so you should be careful how you use them!

anorak * bigmouth * bunny boiler * busybody * chatterbox * chinless wonder * clock-watcher * couch potato * crank * creep * daydreamer * Don Juan * eager beaver * early bird * golden boy * happy camper * life and soul of the party * moaning Minnie * pain in the neck * rolling stone * rough diamond * salt of the earth * Scrooge * scrounger * skiver * slave driver * smart Alec * smart cookie * stuffed shirt * tearaway * troublemaker * wallflower * wet blanket * wimp * wolf in sheep’s clothing

  1. Nobody likes Peter very much because he’s so annoying. He’s a right __________!
  2. Andy is so boring. Did you know that his idea of a perfect day is going to the station to collect train registration numbers? What a / an __________!
  3. I know that you don’t like your job very much, but I wish you would stop complaining about it all the time. Don’t be such a / an __________!
  4. Imelda loves working here: she’s a real __________.
  5. Alan is an excellent and intelligent manager who runs the department well and deals effectively with any problems that come up. Everyone agrees that he’s a / an __________.
  6. You’ve been sitting in front of the television for almost four hours. Why don’t you turn it off and go for a walk? You’re turning into a / an __________.
  7. We were having a wonderful evening until Anne joined us. Why does she have to be so negative about everything all the time? She’s such a / an __________!
  8. Don’t be such a /an __________! If you concentrated instead of speaking all the time, you would get more work done.
  9. If you want some help, ask Imelda. She’s always happy and willing to help out: she’s a real __________!
  10. I hope Rick comes out with us tonight. He’s such good fun, always the __________.
  11. Poor Samantha is a bit of a / an __________. She would have much more fun and would get to know more people if she had more confidence.
  12. Don is a bit of a / an __________. He never eats vegetables because he thinks they slow down your brain!
  13. Don’t be such a / an __________! You’ve only got a small cut on your hand; you haven’t lost a whole arm!
  14. All the newspapers are writing about Gordon Stapleton. He’s the new __________ of English football.
  15. When Laurence ended his relationship with Mandy, she refused to accept it and started sending him insulting letters. Then one day she went to his house and threw a brick through his window! I never realised she was such a __________!
  16. My line manager Mr Burton is a real __________. Yesterday he made us work for six hours without a break, and wouldn’t let us leave until 7 o’clock.
  17. Maureen is the __________ in this company. She starts work at 7 o’clock, two hours before anyone else arrives.
  18. I’m afraid my son has become a bit of a / an __________. He stays out all night with his friends and he never listens to a word I say.
  19. All the girls in the office love Daniel, and he loves them right back! He’s a regular __________.
  20. Mrs Ranscombe is such a /an __________. I wish she would stop interfering in my private life!
  21. My boss is a real __________: he pays us peanuts and hasn’t given us a pay rise for two years.
  22. James is a bit of a / an __________. He never seems to pay attention during his lessons, and doesn’t appear to take in anything I say.
  23. Martin isn’t ill! He’s not at work today because he’s too lazy to come in, the __________!
  24. Michelle never pays for anything when we go out, and just relies on other people. She’s such a / an __________.
  25. Mike has always been a / an __________. He can never stay in the same place for very long, and he rarely keeps the same job for more than six months.
  26. Our new secretary is a / an __________. She doesn’t work very hard, and she can’t wait for the working day to end.
  27. Everyone respects Arthur. He’s the __________.
  28. I would avoid Christine, if I were you. She’s a real __________, and loves to start arguments.
  29. When I ask you a question, I want you to give me a short, sensible answer. Don’t be a / an __________!
  30. Come on, Bill. Relax and enjoy yourself! Don’t be such a / an __________.
  31. Anthony is always following the boss around, carrying his briefcase and papers, opening doors for him and bringing him cups of coffee. What a __________!
  32. Don’t ask Tina to keep a secret: she’s a real __________.
  33. I know that Mr Connor isn’t very well spoken and doesn’t behave very politely, but he’s a pleasant and kind man, a real __________.
  34. Mr Kelly seems nice and kind when you first start working for him, but in fact he’s a ruthless businessman who will fire you the first time you make a mistake. He’s a real __________.
  35. Tarquin is a bit of a __________. He has lots of money, but everyone thinks he’s weak and stupid.

Correct Answers:

  1. pain in the neck (= someone who is very annoying).
    This is often shortened to a pain: “Peter is such a pain!”.
  2. anorak (= someone who is very interested in something that most people think is boring or unfashionable).
    Nerd has a similar meaning, but is usually used to describe someone who is very interested in technical or scientific subjects, especially computers: “George is a real computer nerd!” Nerd can also be used to describe someone who is not physically attractive, and does not have much social ability. He / she might also wear nerdy clothes or have a nerdy haircut.
  3. moaning Minnie (= someone who complains a lot, usually about minor, unimportant things).
    We can also say moaner or whinger (from the verbs to moan and to whinge): “He’s such a moaner!” “She’s a real whinger!” If the person who always moans or whinges is also unhappy all the time, we could call him / her a misery guts.
  4. happy camper (= someone who enjoys their job and the company they work for).
    Eager beaver could also be used in this sentence. A happy bunny is a similar expression which can be used to describe anyone who is always smiling and happy: “Who’s the happy bunny next to you in this photograph?”
  5. smart cookie (= someone who has a strong character or who is intelligent, and deals well with problems and disappointments).
    We can also say a tough cookie.
  6. couch potato (= someone who spends a lot of time sitting at home watching television).
    If the person who does this is very untidy, rarely washes himself / herself or his / her clothes, and eats lots of junk food (eg, burgers, pizzas, etc), we could describe him / her as a layabout or a slob: “You lazy slob! Clear up this mess, have a shower and put on some clean clothes!”
  7. wet blanket (= someone who spoils other people’s fun by being negative and complaining).
    We could also say a killjoy (= someone who makes it difficult for people to enjoy themselves) or, less specifically, a pain in the neck.
  8. chatterbox (= someone who talks a lot).
    Someone who talks a lot in a boring way could be called a windbag or a bore. Compare these with bigmouth in number 32 below.
  9. eager beaver (= someone who is extremely enthusiastic and enjoys working extremely hard).
    Note that the people in numbers 4, 5 and 9 could also be described as a live wire (= someone who has a lot of energy and is interesting to be with).
  10. life and soul of the party (= someone who is good company, lively, and fun to be with. Note that this expression always uses the, not a).
    A person who gets on well with lots of people in different situations (social, work, etc) is a good mixer. A person who loves going to parties and having fun is a party animal.
  11. wallflower (= someone at a social event who has no one to dance with or talk to, often because they are shy).
    Shrinking violet has a similar meaning.
  12. crank (= someone who has very strange ideas or behaviour).
    We can also say an oddball or (very informally), a weirdo.
  13. wimp (= someone who is not strong, brave or confident).
    If you decide not to do something because you are frightened or not confident, we say that you wimp out: “I was going to ask the boss for a pay rise, but then I wimped out”. We can also say a softie.
  14. golden boy (= a successful man that a lot of people like and admire. This expression is often used by journalists).
    Blue-eyed boy is a similar expression, but is often used in a disapproving way: “You know that Alastair McKinnon? He’s such a blue-eyed boy! He’ll be running the company before you know it!”
  15. bunny boiler (= a woman who reacts badly, and sometimes violently, if a man ends a relationship with her or treats her badly in other ways).
    A bunny is an informal word for a rabbit, and the expression bunny boiler comes from a film in which a rejected woman gets her revenge on her ex-boyfriend by killing and boiling his child’s pet rabbit. There is no male equivalent of this expression. Note that troublemaker could also be used to complete this sentence.
  16. slave driver (= someone who makes people work very hard).
  17. early bird (= someone who gets up early, starts work early, etc).
    This expression comes from the English saying “The early bird catches the worm”.
  18. tearaway (= a young person who does dangerous, silly or illegal things that often get them into trouble).
    A person or animal who is difficult to deal with or control could be called a terror: “Annie was so sweet when she was a baby, but now she’s a little terror.”
  19. Don Juan (= a man who is very successful with women).
    We can also say a Casanova or a Romeo (all three are named after famous lovers from stories). Note that these words are often preceded by a regular. A woman who is attractive to men but who treats them badly could be called a femme fatale.
  20. busybody (= someone who is very interested in other people’s private lives and activities, and tries to get involved in them in a way that is annoying).
    Someone who is very interested in other people’s private lives but doesn’t normally get involved could be called a nosey parker. If one of your neighbours is a nosey parker, you could describe him / her as a curtain twitcher (he / she watches the neighbours from behind the curtains in his / her house).
  21. Scrooge (= someone who likes to keep all their money and doesn’t like to spend it: from a character in a novel by Charles Dickens).
    If you pay someone peanuts, you pay them very little money. We could describe a miser as tight or tight-fisted: “Don’t be so tightfisted dad! I only want to borrow £10.” A person who likes to make money is sometimes described as a
    moneygrabber or a moneygrubber.
  22. daydreamer (= someone who is always thinking about something pleasant when they should be doing something more important).
    A daydreamer could be said to have their head in the clouds.
  23. skiver (= a person who isn’t at school or work when they should be).
    A skiver often pretends to be ill, and is said to be skiving off or throwing a sickie.
  24. scrounger (= someone who gets something they want by asking someone for it instead of getting or paying for it themselves. It comes from the verb to scrounge).
    A lazy, greedy person who does this could be called a parasite (this word has a much more negative connotation). Scrooge would also work in this sentence.
  25. rolling stone (= someone who does not stay in the same job or with the same friends for long).
    This comes from the English saying “A rolling stone gathers no moss”.
  26. clock-watcher (= someone who doesn’t concentrate on their work because they wish it was time to stop).
  27. salt of the earth (= an ordinary person who is respected because they are honest and good. Note that this expression always uses the and not a).
    A good or reliable person could also be described as a good egg.
  28. troublemaker (= someone who causes problems, often by being violent or by making others argue).
    We can also say a stirrer (someone who likes to stir up trouble)
  29. smart Alec (also written alec or Aleck) (= someone who behaves in an annoying way by trying to show how clever they are).
    We can also say a clever dick.
  30. stuffed shirt (= a boring person, usually male, who always behaves in a very correct way).
    We can also say a stick in the mud.
  31. creep (= an unpleasant person, especially someone who tries to please or impress people in positions of authority).
    A child at school who is popular with the teachers for doing this might be called a teacher’s pet by his / her jealous schoolmates: “I can’t stand Linda Harley: she’s such a teacher’s pet.”
  32. bigmouth (= someone who talks a lot and is unable to keep anything secret).
    We can also say a blabbermouth.
  33. rough diamond (= someone who does not behave politely or is not well-educated, but is pleasant and kind)
  34. wolf in sheep’s clothing (= someone who seems friendly but is in fact unpleasant or cruel).
    The opposite is a teddy bear (= someone, always a man, who looks tough and unfriendly, but is in fact very friendly and pleasant)
  35. chinless wonder (= a rich but weak or stupid man).
    This expression is often used to describe members of the British upper classes.
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