64 Describing Words To Help You Show (Not Tell) Your Story

Effective character description is key for drawing your readers into your story; use our list of describing words to help paint a clear picture for your audience. 

Captivate your readers with extraordinary descriptive words to leave a lasting impression on your readers. Don’t fall into the trap of using the same boring words in your writing, where fear of creativity can stifle your success. Embrace vivid and exciting words to create enchanting imagery and watch your work come to life.

What Are Describing Words?

Describing words examples
“Dedicated” is a great example of describing words that you can add to your story writing

Describing words (also known as adjectives) are used to convey information or provide a description of a person, place, thing, or situation. Often, adjectives are used to differentiate one character or setting from another. While it can be tempting to load up on adjectives, using one perfectly fitting word is far more powerful. There are thousands of describing words in English- we’ve compiled a few of our favorites here.


Positive Describing Words

Whether you want your readers to root for your protagonist or begin to see the underdog in a new light, these positive describing words can shine on the object with which they’re paired. Sprinkling these adjectives into the character development process can help your audience get on your character’s side.

1. Adventurous

Joel loved his son’s adventurous spirit, as it allowed him to enjoy hiking, mountain biking, and other pursuits he loved when he was his son’s age.

2. Ambitious

“Being ambitious can help you in your career,” Bethany said, “But you’ll want to be careful that you don’t knock people down on your way to the top.”

3. Beneficial

Connie and Amber realized that being neighbors was mutually beneficial, as Amber was around to let Connie’s dog out.

4. Confident

The first thing she noticed upon meeting him was his confidence, and she was impressed with how clear it was that he believed in himself.

5. Courageous

“You were so courageous,” the pediatrician told Mae after she received her final vaccination in the series.

6. Dazzling

As she drove over the George Washington Bridge, she had to remind herself to focus on the road instead of the dazzling New York City skyline.

7. Dedicated

Kim was grateful to have such a dedicated team of teachers on her side because managing 140 sixth graders on a field trip was no simple feat.

8. Dynamic

The staff members at the museum were excited to get to know their dynamic new director.

9. Harmonious

Erica couldn’t believe how harmoniously her parents were getting along at her wedding, even though they had divorced just a few years prior.

10. Heavenly

The quiche Patricia baked for the potluck brunch was heavenly, and it was no surprise that it disappeared quickly.

11. Industrious

Steve’s parents were impressed with the industrious attitude he took toward the SATs, spending at least an hour studying every day after school. 

12. Kindred

The two best friends had been kindred spirits since middle school, and it only made sense that they started a business together. 

13. Mellow

Pudge was a mellow cat, often preferring napping in the sunlight that shone through the window to chasing birds. 

14. Mysterious

Katie had run on the trail hundreds of times, but the mysterious look of the dew steaming off the ground made her choose another route.

15. Noteworthy

His performance in the play was noteworthy, and several local news outlets marked him as an up-and-coming star.

16. Proud

Lindsay was proud of her daughter for sticking with her commitment to the softball team.

17. Radiant

Molly looked radiant as she stepped out her front door to meet her date.

18. Reliable

Watching his favorite comedy sketch show at the end of the week was a reliable, tried-and-tested way to unwind from work stress.

19. Stunning

Even the paparazzi photographers were shocked at how stunning Julia looked as she waltzed across the red carpet.

20. Successful

To run a successful campaign, Tyler knew he’d have to start fundraising at least a year before the election.

21. Valuable

She knew she was giving up billable hours, but she didn’t mind; nothing was more valuable than having lunch with her daughter.

22. Wondrous

“This is even more wondrous than I could have imagined,” said Annabelle as she gazed over the Grand Canyon.

23. Wholesome

Matt marveled at how wholesome his daughters were as he watched them work together to create the perfect bouquet for Mother’s Day. 

Neutral Describing Words

Want to fully describe a noun in your story while remaining impartial? These neutral describing words allow your reader to remain emotionally detached while still fully seeing the picture you’re painting with your words.

24. Ample

Miranda was relieved she had ample supplies to bake the five dozen cookies she’d promised for the school bake sale. 

25. Ancient

The tour guide loved seeing the awe on the faces of the people in his tour group as they saw the ancient pyramids for the first time. 

26. Classic

He knew the office was modern and informal, but he still felt like it was a smart move to wear a classic three-piece suit for his interview.

27. Decent

The accommodations weren’t fancy, but they were decent enough for Anne to get a good night’s rest.

28. Demanding

The coach worked hard to strike the right balance between being encouraging and demanding with her players.

29. Diligent

Bill knew he had to be diligent when auditing the school’s business office, as missing a single detail could cause major tax problems. 

30. Gargantuan

To Alex, the mountain appeared gargantuan, even though it seemed small last year when he reached the summit on his annual hike.

31. Historical

Erin couldn’t believe how the miles ticked by as she ran the streets of Washington, D.C., amazed by the historical buildings. 

32. Inevitable

Robin was sad to leave, though she knew relocation was inevitable in her job.

33. Interesting

Mrs. Darcy did a great job of making her Sunday school lessons informative and interesting for her second-grade students.

34. Mischievous

“Are you two being mischievous?” the pet sitter asked the kittens after seeing a dismantled ball of yarn in the middle of the floor. 

35. Nonchalant

Jessica worked to look nonchalant as she walked into the party, even though she knew her ex-boyfriend was likely in the crowd.

36. Obvious

Gloria tried to act like she liked the dessert, but the look on her face made it obvious that it wasn’t her favorite.

37. Observant

Kent was observant as he met his new coworkers for the first time, looking for how their personalities would mesh.

38. Practical

It wasn’t practical to drive past her childhood home, but she couldn’t head back to the city without at least catching a glimpse. 

39. Quaint

When they arrived at the lake house, they were pleasantly surprised; it was quaint yet sophisticated.

40. Questionable

While his explanation was questionable, she decided to believe him, even though history had proven this wasn’t a good idea.

41. Rustic

The event venue was the perfect balance of rustic and sophisticated. 

42. Thrifty

Being thrifty was essential for a family of seven, but somehow, they always seemed to find a way to afford everything they needed. 

43. Tolerant

It wasn’t easy, but Martha tried to be tolerant of her baby cousin’s constant squealing as she watched the movie.

44. Unbelievable

“This is unbelievable,” Andy said when the hostess couldn’t find his name on the list, “I swear, I made a reservation days ago.”

45. Universal

Writing about universal truths, like love and loss, can help writers connect with any audience.

46. Vague

She was purposely vague when giving Theo directions to his surprise party, as she wanted him to take his time getting there.

Negative Describing Words

Pull up this list when you’re working to convey something less-than-flattering about a person, place, thing, or situation in your writing. 

47. Awkward

As hard as she tried, there was no way for Jada to let go of her awkward feelings on her first day at her new school. 

48. Cheap

He knew he’d regret being cheap, as buying less expensive shoes meant replacing them sooner.

49. Defiant

Nelly stomped her feet in an attempt to be defiant.

50. Grumpy

There was no way around it; Skip was becoming a grumpy old man.

51. Immoral

Tanya knew to cheat on her math test was immoral, but she didn’t see any other way to make it through the class and graduate on time.

52. Jaded

It wasn’t Jasmine’s fault that she’d become jaded; social work was a tough career.

53. Judgmental

Christie worked hard not to be judgmental of her sister but had trouble accepting that she wouldn’t attend their mother’s birthday dinner.

54. Jumbled

Janet struggled to make sense of the words on the page, as they seemed jumbled, and her teacher began to suspect that Janet may be experiencing dyslexia.

55. Offensive

“It’s not just mean; it’s offensive,” Gloria told her professor about his implication that men would have an easier time in his class than women. 

56. Overwhelming

Working full-time, caring for an aging dog, and managing two kids felt overwhelming for Trisha.

57. Quarrelsome

The sisters were quarrelsome, but they always remembered that they loved each other after fighting for a while. 

58. Queasy

The teacup ride left Oliver feeling queasy, even though he had begged his parents to let him go on it for the third time.

59. Reckless

I deserved the reckless driving charge, as I was driving far too fast.

60. Terrifying

The movie was terrifying to Elizabeth, and she knew that she’d need to watch something funny if she wanted any chance against having nightmares later.

61. Vengeful

Josh felt vengeful toward Veronica’s new boyfriend, Tom, as he didn’t treat Veronica well.

62. Villainous

It was easy to start the villainous character in the movie, as he had a sinister look from the first scene.

63. Volatile

The weather outside was especially volatile, and Tana wondered whether she could hold her party that weekend. 

64. Wary

Stephen was glad that his friend had apologized, but he was wary of whether his intentions were pure.

Looking for more? Check out our guide on how to use adjectives correctly!


  • Amanda has an M.S.Ed degree from the University of Pennsylvania in School and Mental Health Counseling and is a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. She has experience writing magazine articles, newspaper articles, SEO-friendly web copy, and blog posts.