The following words are often times perfect to describe people. Though pinning down the exact definitions of these words can be more difficult than uttering, “Hey, that guy is such and such.” That’s why in addition to providing definitions, I’ve provide an example sentence that gives a little bit of context before the word in question appears.
– sober, serious, grave, adhering to a sense of propriety
Making Joel laugh proved difficult. He always seemed to feel that laughter, even a mere smile, was inappropriate. That wasn’t to say he was antisocial. He simply preferred to remain serious, as though such staidness conferred upon him a sense of dignity. Of course that was the case until we discovered Joel’s predilection for Irish whiskey.
– dull, impassive, emotion-less, almost giving the sense of stupidity
Boris never became excited. With glazed eyes, he would greet both mundane news and the most extraordinary revelations. Were it not for his rare quips—suggesting at least a capacity for humor—Boris’s coworkers would think he was the victim of some massive head trauma.
– fond of being alone, typically departing from the social circle, preferring privacy to the mob, shy
Harold rarely came out of his den. When he did so, he was pleasant enough, exchanging a few pleasantries with guests. But whenever the conversation would start dragging on, he would subtly edge his way back into his study, once again safely ensconced in his world of books.
This word should not be confused with ‘retiring’, as in ‘he will be retiring next fall.’
– causing fear; worthy of awe; employed humorously and cheekily to show that somebody is big and scary
Even now I can remember the redoubtable Ms. Knowles, my 3rd grade grammar teacher. Like the Napoleon of syntax, she would march each morning in our room, wooden ruler in hand, ready to rattle knuckles at even the slightest misplaced modifying phrase with her ruler. Ouch! (Sorry Ms. Knowles).
This word does not relate to ‘doubt’ but comes from an Old French verb meaning ‘to fear.’
– talkative, effusive, out-going in social situations (the opposite of ‘retiring’)
Often retiring, if not downright stolid, Chester, with only a single glass of wine, would strike up conversations with those around him. By the second glass, he would become expansive, sharing intimate details of his past with perfect strangers. Unfortunately, by the third glass, he’d become a redoubtable drunk, haranguing others for being in cahoots with government spies.
Expansive call also mean wide-ranging in scope.