English with Nab

34 idioms and slang phrases to describe people

You are already familiar with some of the adjectives that describe people.

But today let’s have a look at some English informal expressions and idioms describing character and personality. Some of you might have heard one or two (or maybe 10!). These are idioms or slang words and expressions to describe character and personality. And I’m sure that most of you have met or heard of someone who matches one of these expressions.

There are lots of different ways to describe people’s personalities. Idioms are one of the most colourful ways to describe people’s characters, and also to sound more natural when you speak English.

Native English speakers use a wide variety of idioms to describe people. Some of these expressions are positive, some negative, and others neutral. Knowing these idioms means more than learning the language. In order to understand native speakers and take part in the conversation, you should become familiar with these commonly used phrases.

Use the expression yourself only after you have mastered the meaning. You guys are ready?

1. Pain in the neck/ pain in the ass in this one is informal

– an irritating, annoying person

Ex. Sarah is such a pain in the neck these days.

2. Bright spark

– a clever person

Ex. He is a real bright spark in the class.

3. Party animal / Party goer

– someone who likes to attend parties often

Ex. Are you going out again tonight? You are such a party animal.

4. Party pooper

– someone who ruins all of the fun at a party or get-together by not wanting to participate in certain activities or simply through negativity.

Example: We asked Lee to play a game of Monopoly with us but he said no. Instead of playing, he went home. He’s such a party pooper!

5. Cold fish

– someone who has very little emotions, who is regarded as hard-hearted and unfeeling.

Nab said nothing at all when I told him about my problems. He is a cold fish.

6. Dark horse

– someone who has greater abilities than he shows or than other people are aware of

Ex. I didn’t know Nab could play the guitar so well. He is a real dark horse!

7. Lone wolf

– someone who prefers his own company and does not like socializing. We can also say a lone bird.

Ex. Jack became a real lone wolf since his wife passed away last year. He never goes out.

8. Happy camper

– a person who is always happy and satisfied. ‘Happy camper’ is often used in the negative.

Ex. The apartment was much smaller than I expected, I was not a happy camper.

9. Smart cookie

– somebody who has got a strong personality or who is quite smart.

Ex. Emilie is such a smart cookie, she can make any project a success.

10. Wet blanket

– a person who ruins other people’s fun by staying pessimistic and complaining all the time.

Ex. Katie is so negative about everything, she is such a wet blanket.

11. Chatterbox

– a person who talks a lot

Ex. Nab is such a chatterbox.

12. Good egg

– a good egg is a good person.

Example: Marry was the type of person who would have helped anyone – a real good egg.

13. Life and soul of the party

– someone who is energetic and funny and at the center of activity during social occasions

Ex. It was a great Party, Nab was life and soul of the party.

14. Golden boy

– a winning person that everyone is fond of.

Ex. Wayne Rooney is the golden boy of English football.

15. Bunny boiler

– is someone who is dangerously, irrationally or psychotically obsessed with another who is not (or no longer) interested in their attention.

Ex. I’ve heard she’s a bit of a bunny-boiler.

16. Slave driver

– a person who makes other people work very hard:

Ex. My boss is such a slave driver, I had to work 15 hours in a row.

17. Early bird

– a person who wakes up, arrives to work, etc. before the usual time

This expression comes from the English proverb “The early bird catches the worm”.

Ex. My Mum is the early bird in our family, she gets up at 5 o’clock in the morning.

18. Busybody

– a person who expresses great interest in other people’s private lives

Ex. My next door neighbor is a real busybody.

19. Daydreamer

– someone who is having dreamlike thoughts when they should be focusing on the present

Ex. I’m still a bit of a daydreamer.

20. Clock-watcher

– someone who has no interest on the current activity, and keeps watching the time

Ex. I hate to be a clock-watcher, but I can’t wait to get out of here.

21. Big mouth

– someone who is not able to keep a secret

Ex. Never tell her a secret, she’s got a really big mouth.

22. Creep

– a nasty person, someone who is trying to impress higher authority

Ex. What a creep this guy is.

23. Pig-headed

– This one simply means “stubborn.”

Ex. He’ll always believe that the world is flat. It doesn’t matter how much evidence you give him — he’s pig-headed to listen.

24. A people person

– an outgoing person who enjoys or is particularly good at interacting with others.

Ex. “Nab is an extrovert, a real people person”

25. Rough diamond

– someone who seems impolite or is not well-educated, but who has a kind heart and good character.

Ex. Don’t be put off by your first impressions — he’s something of a rough diamond.

26. Down-to-earth

– practical, reasonable, and friendly:

Ex. She is very down to earth person, not at all attracted by the glamour world.

27. Tearaway

– a person who behaves in a stupid or wild manner, and frequently gets into trouble.

Ex. “some young tearaways set fire to the house”

28. Skiver

– a person who persistently avoids work or responsibility

Ex. She didn’t bother to turn up for work on Monday, she is a skiver.

29. Johnny-come-lately

– someone who has only recently started a job or activity and has suddenly become very successful

Ex. She might take offense if some Johnny-come-lately thinks he can do a better job.

30. Nerd

– a person, especially a man, who is not attractive and is awkward or socially embarrassing

Ex. You’re not one of those science nerds, are you?

31. Geek

– someone who is intelligent but not fashionable or popular

Ex. He’s such a geek.

32. A social butterfly

– someone who enjoys frequently mingling with other people at social events.

Ex. Nab’s always been something of a social butterfly, so we’ve never really worried about him making friends or finding his way in the world.

33. Busy bee

– someone who is always busy doing things

Ex. You’ve cleaned the whole house this morning? What a busy bee you are!

34. Laid-back

– someone who behaves in a calm relaxed way as if nothing will ever worry them

Ex. He doesn’t get stressed and is pretty relaxed most of the time.

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3 thoughts on “34 idioms and slang phrases to describe people”

  1. Hey I am trying to find the slang word for rich corporate people who are always clean shaven and wear formals and are kind of aholes. I knew it before but not able to recall for a time while.
    Thank you

  2. Maria Demchenkova

    Hello and many thanks for such a great list of idioms. I am a bit confused though, can we also use “nerd” to describe a person who is highly interested in science and / or technology spending much of his time in front of his computer, an intelligent and bright person…
    Many thanks in advance for your reply

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