Character Traits Thesaurus Entry: Bossy

Definition: A person inclined to dominate, dictate, be pushy and overbearing

Characters in Literature: Hermione Granger (Harry Potter), Mr. Dussel (The Diary of Anne Frank)

Common Portrayals: An overseer who is always hovering and micro-managing, the student waving his hand in the air, speaking out of turn, interrupting, correcting misinformation, offering information that may or may not be relevant simply to show how much they know, sneering, sniffing in disdain, looking down their noses at people, offering advice when it isn’t wanted

Possible Cliches to Avoid: The overbearing schoolgirl or bossy little sister, the clearly incompetent but dictatorial manager, know-it-alls

Twists on the Traditional Bossy:

  • Instead of having a Bossy character who’s bossy just for the sake of meanness, give him a reason to be that way. Show why he is the way he is.
  • Create a Bossy who knows he’s incompetent and doesn’t hide it, but for whatever reason, still is compelled to push people around
  • Bossies don’t have to be know-it-alls! A person might be bossy by constantly finding fault and criticizing others in an effort to change them. Another kind of Bossy could be the expert at  “delegating” (ie, sitting back and giving orders while others do the work). Redefine Bossy to make it work in a new way.
  • Traditionally, villains and mentors are bossy. Try a bossy hero or trickster instead.

Additional characteristics to make your Bossy unique or unusual: polite, nervous, shy, thoughtful, affectionate, charming, charismatic, non-confrontational


This sample, along with the rest of the character trait entries, has been expanded into book form! Together, THE NEGATIVE TRAIT THESAURUS: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO CHARACTER FLAWS and THE POSITIVE TRAIT THESAURUS: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO CHARACTER ATTRIBUTES contain over 200 traits for you to choose from when creating unique, memorable characters. Each entry contains possible causes for the trait, as well as positive and negative aspects, traits in supporting characters that may cause conflict, and associated behaviors, attitudes, thoughts, and emotions. For more information on this bestselling book and where it can be found, please visit our bookstore.

Love working online and having your favorite description resources in one place? We’ve got you covered. The entries from the Negative Trait Thesaurus book have been integrated into our online library at One Stop For Writers. Now you can search and cross-reference between all our thesaurus collections quickly and easily. Interested in viewing a free sample? Register at One Stop and see all that this intuitive library for writers has to offer.

Thesaurus Pair


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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25 Responses to Character Traits Thesaurus Entry: Bossy

  1. Pingback: Character Traits Thesaurus Collection | Writers Helping Writers

  2. Thanks for this great post. Its really helpful. Btw… I like Hermione quite a bit 😉

  3. I love the twists on bossy characters. This is really helpful. Thanks

  4. Thanks everyone for the comments and support of our newest Thesaurus collection. We’re very excited to be tackling characters for this one. 🙂

  5. I love these posts about character and setting that you are doing. They are insightful and helpful. Thanks!

  6. Great post! My sister gets bossy when she worries – if she can’t be there or she thinks there might be danger again she bosses. It is her over-protective streak coming out 😉

  7. This is so great, Becca. I know quite a few bossies and they all fit your descriptions. Thank you for this.

  8. Very nice, well done Becca. I love that once you two are done with this series, we’ll be able to look through different character traits to combine several of them into a single character, which is what people are really like.

  9. I loved Hermione! I think I secretly like bossy characters though.

  10. Cat says:

    Love this! The best part about this is that I’m NOT bossy… and I know for sure now, ’cause of this definition. Thanks for that!

  11. Great post. As an addition may be the following is interesting for the community here:

    I have a bossy antagonist in my conspiracy thriller The Money Pit. I have made him knowledgeable and a true leader. He is irritating, impatient all that. But, and I have come across people like that, he is charming when only one other person is in the room, yet ‘the boss’ when more than one people are around. Then he doesn’t accept criticism, is belittling, etc.

  12. Thanks for this. I can see a cliche in my own wip. I’ll definitely look into changing some character traits.

  13. I think this is going to be a fun series. Hopefully it will help us come up with some truly unique characters 🙂

  14. Kristen says:

    Bossy trickster. Hmmmm…

  15. Thanks! Great post. I love that picture you found. And I don’t have bossy tendencies at all. NOoo.

  16. i can already see this series will be great.

  17. Great post! Love the pix. Thanks…

  18. M.C. says:

    What a great dissection of this trait.

  19. You know, I just LOVE that you are listing possible cliches. Awesome!

  20. I like the idea of creating a bossy hero–it’s definitely a realistic trait. 😛

    Great post!

  21. Create a Bossy who knows he’s incompetent and doesn’t hide it, but for whatever reason, still is compelled to push people around – Loved this – this is exactly what I’m trying to pull off in my writing 🙂

  22. KarenG says:

    Wonder how many of us squirmed just a little as we read this post LOL? I like the suggestion to put a twist on the cliches, well done.

  23. Thanks for the comprehensive insights. Great job. And then there’s another kind of boss, like me. I don’t SEEK leadership roles, but somehow, they are eternally thrust upon me. Guess that makes me a reluctant boss.

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