Adjectives for Description: 60 Precise Words | Now Novel (2022)

Finding the right adjectives for description is tough. Try these 7 tips, and create your own describing word dictionary:

What is an adjective?

Adjectives are parts of speech used to modify nouns. They describe and make people and things more specific.

How do you identify an adjective? It typically appears right before the noun it describes. A tiny speck. A dazzling supernova.

Descriptive adjectives tell us what kind of person or object we’re looking at. They add specificity, giving shape, size, age, or other attributes.

Limiting adjectives tell us a noun’s quantity or a restriction about it. For example:

  • That speck is tiny (the adjective makes it clear we are referring to a particular speck and not another)
  • Three supernovas changed our understanding of space (out of all the supernovas ever, three are specified by the adjective).

This article focuses primarily on descriptive adjectives.

How to write punchy adjectives for description:

  1. Replace ‘very + adjective’
  2. Know connotations
  3. Note dazzling descriptions
  4. Find adjectives in metaphor
  5. Remember assonance and alliteration
  6. Find adjectives for description by origin
  7. Keep a list of strong adjectives handy

Let’s explore these description tips further:

1. Replace ‘very + adjective’

‘Very’ is useful to a point. If we say ‘the very small turtle’, we know we’re not reading about giant Galapagos ones.

Children often describe things using ‘very’ because it’s easier vocabulary we learn young.

In a story – even one for children – too much ‘very + adjective’ gets boring. Why? Because it lacks variety and specificity.

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Consider these ‘very + adjective’ pairs and their alternatives:

Adjectives better than ‘very + word’

Very + adjectiveAlternative wordRoot Meaning/Origin
very smallminute‘made small’
very fastswift‘move in a course, sweep’
very rudeobnoxious‘exposed to harm’
very beautifulexquisite‘sought out’

The four examples above show the benefits of replacing ‘very + adjective’. Specific connotations, concision and precision.

2. Know connotations

Examining adjectives shows how subtle language is.

For example, compare ‘very beautiful’ and ‘exquisite’.

‘Very beautiful’ tells a reader well enough that a person or thing is visually appealing.

‘Exquisite’, though, implies qualities of rarity and demand in the root Latin origin of ‘sought out’.

We might write of an ‘exquisite necklace‘. The reader is able to picture it in a shop window, tantalizing passersby.

This is why it’s useful to examine words’ connotations.

Comparing adjectives helps, too.

For example, the difference between exquisite (sought after) and stunning (a beauty able to cause astonishment).

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3. Note dazzling descriptions

A simple way to become skilled at finding the right adjective is to collect your favourites.

When you’re reading and a description leaps out at you, write it down.

Let’s read, for example, Kent Haruf’s description of two aged brothers:

In the kitchen they removed their hats and hung them on pegs set into a board next to the door and began at once to wash up at the sink. Their faces were red and weather-blasted below their white foreheads, the coarse hair on their round heads grown iron-gray and as stiff as the roached mane of a horse.

Kent Haruf, Eventide (2004), p. 3 (our emphasis).

Note how rich Haruf’s intro to the McPheron brothers is.

The adjectives Haruf chooses for description mix simple colours (red and white) with more complex ones. The complex adjectives involve comparison (‘iron-gray’, ‘stiff as the roached mane of a horse’).

These are paired with qualities suggesting hard living (‘weather-blasted’, ‘coarse’).

Try to mix simple adjectives with more complex ones. The reds and whites with the iron-grays and custard yellows of life.

This is a more advanced technique for crafting description out of a shared metaphor.

Using extended metaphors: Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon

Early in the novel, we read a vivid description of the tough father of the house, Macon Dead:

Solid, rumbling, likely to erupt without prior notice, Macon kept each member of his family awkward with fear. His hatred of his wife glittered and sparked in every word he spoke to her. The disappointment he felt in his daughters sifted down on them like ash, dulling their buttery complexions and choking the lilt out of what should have been girlish voices.

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Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon (1977), pp. 10-11

The description compares Macon to a volcano (‘likely to erupt without prior notice’).

Note how Morrison looks for descriptive phrases in the same metaphorical neighborhood.

Her description is varied because Morrison uses some adjectives, but also metaphorical, verbal phrases. ‘Sifted down on them like ash’, to describe the constant raining down, discomfort, of Macon’s disappointment.

This variety carries the description along.

Standard adjectives include:

  • Solid (describing Macon’s stature)
  • Awkward (describing the discomfort Macon creates in his family)
  • Buttery (describing his daughters’ complexions)
  • Girlish (describing a quality Macon’s daughters’ voices would have had, if not for his toughness)

Yet Morrison also includes describing words in the form of verbs. She describes the way Macon’s hatred ‘glittered’ and ‘sparked’ (extending the volcano metaphor).

The result? A paragraph alive with vivid and varied imagery and action, yet cohesive, too.

5. Remember assonance and alliteration

Assonance and alliteration are useful poetic devices to remember for descriptions.

(Video) Vivid Verbs and Precise Adjectives: Oct 2, 2020 9:25 AM

Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds. For example, the repeated ‘ay’ in ‘We lay, aimless, waiting for that hazy summer’s cooling.’

Here, the sound’s repetion creates a languid, lazy feeling.

Alliteration is the repetition of consonants.

For example, the repetition of sharp plosive ‘t’ and ‘p’ sounds in Wilfred Owen’s famous war poem, ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’. The sounds mimic gunfire:

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
— Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle.

Wilfred Owen, ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’, available on Poetry Foundation here.

When choosing adjectives for description, try reading the sentence aloud. How does it sound?

Adjectives for Description: 60 Precise Words | Now Novel (2)

6. Find adjectives for description by origin

If you look back at the list of words to replace ‘very + adjective’, you see the words’ given origins.

Etymology (the origin of words) is a gift for crafting great description.

Look up adjectives’ root origins when unfamiliar. You may be surprised by the subtle meanings the right adjectives add.

7. Keep a strong list of adjectives handy

Build your own descriptive encyclopedia.


For example, here are 60 adjectives for descriptions, organised by category:

Adjectives for describing size, age, character and more

microscopicso small as to be only visible with a microscope
infinitesimalimmeasurably or incalculably small
minisculeextremely small or tiny
massiveforming or consisting of a large mass, having great size and weight or solidity
ancientbelonging to the very distant past
archaicvery old or old-fashioned
primordialexisting at or from the beginning of time
fresh(of food) recently made or obtained, not previously known or used
novelinterestingly new or unusual
lustroushaving lustre or shining
brilliant(of light or colour) very bright
sparklingshining brightly with flashes of light
glitteringshining with a shimmering or sparkling light
dulllacking bightness, vividness or sheen, not sharp
acute(unpleasant) present or experienced to a severe or intense degree.
honed(of a blade), sharpened, having been refined or perfected
precise(of a person) exact, accurate, and careful about details
blunt(of a person or remark) uncompromisingly forthright
edgytense, nervous, irritable
fouloffensive to the senses, especially through having a disgusting smell or taste or being dirty
putrid(of organic matter) decaying or rotting and emitting a fetid smell
aromatichaving a pleasant and distinctive smell
fragranthaving a pleasant or sweet smell
perfumednaturally having or producing a sweet, pleasant smell
delectable(of food or drink) delicious
delicioushighly pleasant to the taste
mouth-wateringarousing the appetite : tantalizingly delicious or appealing
bitterhaving a sharp, pungent taste or smell; not sweet
acridunpleasantly bitter or pungent
benevolentwell meaning and kindly
benigngentle and kind
genialfriendly and cheerful
belligerenthostile and aggressive
solicitouscharacterized by or showing interest or concern
uppityself-important, arrogant
blitheshowing a casual and cheerful indifference considered to be callous or improper
dourrelentlessly severe, stern, or gloomy in manner or appearance
obstinatestubbornly refusing to change one’s opinion or chosen course of action
ficklechanging frequently, especially as regards one’s loyalties or affections
fastidiousvery attentive to and concerned about accuracy and detail
pedanticexcessively concerned with minor details or rules; overscrupulous
stingymean; ungenerous
bellicosedemonstrating aggression and willingness to fight
po-facedhaving an assumed solemn, serious, or earnest expression or manner
archdeliberately or affectedly playful and teasing
coymaking a pretence of shyness or modesty which is intended to be alluring, reluctant to give details
insouciantshowing a casual lack of concern
unscrupuloushaving or showing no moral principles; not honest or fair
pragmaticdealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations
ceruleandeep blue in colour like a clear sky
mottledmarked with spots or smears of colour
variegatedexhibiting different colours, especially as irregular patches or streaks
kaleidoscopichaving complex patterns of colours; multicoloured
saturated(of colour) very bright, full, and free from an admixture of white.
elatedvery happy or proud; jubilant; in high spirits
glumlooking or feeling dejected; morose
chippercheerful and lively
sanguineoptimistic or positive, especially in an apparently bad or difficult situation
gleefulexuberantly or triumphantly joyful

Develop your descriptions with the help of fun exercises and examples. Get How to Write Real Characters: Character Description, a practical workbook with exercises and supplementary videos.


What are some precise adjectives? ›

  • accurate,
  • close,
  • delicate,
  • exact,
  • fine,
  • hairline,
  • mathematical,
  • pinpoint,

What are the 50 examples of adjective? ›

Top 50 adjectives in English
1. AbleHaving what is required (e.g., money or skills) to do something When I was young, I was able to stand on my head.
2. AngryBeing very annoyed or upset If I'm late for class again, the teacher is going to be angry.
58 more rows
Apr 15, 2021

What are adjective 25 examples? ›

25 Most Common Adjectives
  • good.
  • new.
  • first.
  • last.
  • long.
  • great.
  • little.
  • own.

What are 20 describing words? ›

20 Describing Words That Are Commonly Used in English

Can you give me a list of adjectives? ›

A-D List of Adjective Words
19 more rows

What are adjectives give 30 examples? ›

Examples of adjectives
  • They live in a beautiful house.
  • Lisa is wearing a sleeveless shirt today. This soup is not edible.
  • She wore a beautiful dress.
  • He writes meaningless letters.
  • This shop is much nicer.
  • She wore a beautiful dress.
  • Ben is an adorable baby.
  • Linda's hair is gorgeous.

What is a common adjective? ›

A common adjective is an adjective that should not be grammatically capitalized, unless it is starting a new sentence. Adjectives are a type of word that modify or describe a noun.

What are 15 adverbs? ›

abnormally absentmindedly accidentally actually adventurously afterwards almost always annually anxiously arrogantly awkwardly bashfully beautifully bitterly bleakly blindly blissfully boastfully boldly bravely briefly brightly briskly broadly busily calmly carefully carelessly cautiously certainly cheerfully clearly ...

What are the 8 types of adjectives? ›

There are a total of 8 types of Adjectives in English grammar namely Descriptive adjective, Numeral adjective, Quantitative adjective, Demonstrative adjective, Interrogative adjective, Possessive adjective, Proper adjective, and Exclamatory adjective.

How do you describe someone in 50 words? ›

Let's now have a look at these adjectives to describe people and their characters with positive vibes:
  • Adaptable.
  • Adventurous.
  • Amarous.
  • diligent.
  • Humble.
  • Courageous.
  • Efficient.
  • Enchanting.
Jun 10, 2019

What is example of description? ›

The definition of a description is a statement that gives details about someone or something. An example of description is a story about the places visited on a family trip.

What is example of descriptive? ›

Descriptive is defined as giving details or something that describes. An example of descriptive is someone giving a very detailed account of an experience they had; a descriptive person.

Are adjectives describing words? ›

An adjective is a word that describes a noun. An adjective usually comes before the noun it describes. Some adjectives are descriptive. They tell what kind of person, place, or thing the noun is.

What is adjective PDF example? ›

An adjective is a word that describes something about noun or pronoun. Indeed it qualifies the noun or pronoun. There are examples of Adjective: He is naughty baby. She has pretty hair.

How many English adjectives are there? ›

According to, there are a total of 100,000 adjectives in the English language but that is a very rough figure as more and more words enter the English dictionary every day making it the diverse and vibrant language we have today.

Is precise a adjective or verb? ›

exact, accurate. Of experimental results, consistent, clustered close together, agreeing with each other.

What are precise verbs? ›

USING PRECISE VERBS. hoosing precise verbs is another way to make your writing more concise. A verb is a word or group of words indicating the action or state of being of the subject in a sentence. The verbs "reviewed" and "are" are highlighted in the sentence, "We reviewed the report and are happy with the results."

What is a complex adjective? ›

Adjective. complex, complicated, intricate, involved, knotty mean having confusingly interrelated parts.

What is an adjective for a describing word give two example? ›

An adjective is a word that describes the traits, qualities, or number of a noun. What are examples of adjectives? Descriptive words like “beautiful,” “smooth,” or “heavy” are all adjectives, as are numbers ( “twelve eggs”).

What is precise description? ›

1 : exactly or sharply defined or stated. 2 : minutely exact. 3 : strictly conforming to a pattern, standard, or convention.

What is precise and example? ›

2. The definition of precise is exact. An example of precise is having the exact amount of money needed to buy a notebook. adjective.

What Precis means? ›

A précis is a way of summarizing in which the tone, proportions, and meaning of the original text are maintained. A précis summarizes a reading that you have completed. The length of a précis can vary greatly; it can be 100-200 words or approximately one-fifth to one-sixth of the length of the original reading.

What are 10 strong verbs? ›

Top 10 Powerful Verbs
1SaidScreamed, shouted, sobbed, talked, whispered, yawned, hummed
8LaughedGiggled, smiled, smirked, admired, grinned, guffawed
9FoundLocated, unearthed, identified, collected, gathered
10RanJogged, pelted, raced, stumbled, staggered, swayed, galloped
6 more rows

What are precise words in writing? ›

Precise language is the use of exact nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc., to help produce vivid mental pictures without resorting to using too many words to convey thoughts. When you use specific words in your writing, you create strong, compelling images in the minds of the readers.

What are the 23 helping verbs? ›

Helping verbs, helping verbs, there are 23! Am, is, are, was and were, being, been, and be, Have, has, had, do, does, did, will, would, shall and should. There are five more helping verbs: may, might, must, can, could!


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