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Having or of an untrustworthy, dubious, or deceptive appearance. There are always a bunch of shifty-looking characters around this part of town at night, so let's not linger! I didn't feel great about the deal when John's shifty-looking business partner came along to sign the papers.

original character

The initial and/or intended meaning or state of something, especially if it has changed over time. Please be sure to keep the original character of the statement you are paraphrasing. I have to translate this story, and I have no idea if I'm capturing its original character. The renovations were done in keeping with the original character of the building.
See also: character

character assassination

A deliberate attempt to destroy the reputation of a public figure by releasing, revealing, or creating defamatory or damaging information about them. The so-called expose on the senator is character assassination, pure and simple. Releasing those decades-old photos this late in the campaign amounts to character assassination—and it will probably work.
See also: character

in character

1. Very typical of the way someone would normally speak or behave; uncharacteristic. I've come to realize that the selfishness and nasty comments are all just in character for him. A: "The last time I saw her, she trying to hook up with Janet's boyfriend." B: "Yeah, that sounds in character, all right."
2. Consistent with the traits or characteristics assigned to the character that one plays. Don't be afraid, sweetie. Daddy's just in character—he's pretending to be a bad man for his movie! As part of his method acting, he remained in character for the full nine months of shooting.
See also: character

out of character

1. Very unlike the way someone would normally speak or behave; uncharacteristic. That outburst was certainly out of character. Tom is usually very happy and laid back. I had no idea her grades were getting so low—that's so out of character for Jane.
2. Inconsistent with the traits or characteristics assigned to the character that one plays. She is a consummate professional. She didn't even go out of character when a part of the set collapsed halfway through the scene.
See also: character, of, out

stay in character

To continue exhibiting the traits and characteristics assigned to the character that one plays. As part of his method acting, he remained in character for the full nine months of shooting.
See also: character, stay

saintly black character

In film and literature, a stock black character who exists solely to aid white characters, often through the use of magical powers or mystical intuition. Also known as the "Magical Negro." The Green Mile is often cited as a film that perpetuates the saintly black character trope.
See also: black, character

pitch character

1. The emotional impact, shape, or dynamic that a particular musical pitch provides. The subtle change in the pitch character changes the piece from one of hopefulness and peace to one of hesitation and sadness.
2. A fictional character, especially a cartoon person or animal, used to sell a product or say a particular line in an advertisement. The '80s saw the introduction of dozens of cheap pitch characters disguised regular cartoons telling kids to buy all sorts of breakfast cereal and plastic junk. Some of the most widely recognized cartoons started life as pitch characters for everything from cleaning products to cigarettes.
See also: character, pitch

character assassination

Fig. seriously harming someone's reputation. The review was more than a negative appraisal of his performance. It was total character assassination.
See also: character

in character

Fig. typical of someone's behavior. For Tom to shout that way wasn't at all in character. He's usually quite pleasant. It was quite in character for Sally to walk away angry.
See also: character

out of character

1. unlike one's usual behavior. Ann's remark was quite out of character. It was out of character for Ann to act so stubborn.
2. inappropriate for the character that an actor is playing. Bill went out of character when the audience started giggling. Bill played the part so well that it was hard for him to get out of character after the performance.
See also: character, of, out

shady character

 and a suspicious character
Fig. an untrustworthy person; a person who makes people suspicious. There is a suspicious character lurking about in the hallway. Please call the police.
See also: character, shady

in character

Consistent with someone's general personality or behavior. For example, Her failure to answer the invitation was completely in character. This usage dates from the mid-1700s, as does the antonym, out of character, as in It was out of character for him to refuse the assignment.
See also: character

ˌin/ˌout of ˈcharacter

(of somebody’s behaviour, etc.) of the kind you would/would not expect from them; characteristic/uncharacteristic: That unpleasant remark she made was quite out of character.‘I’m sure it was Bill I saw from the bus. He was arguing with a police officer.’ ‘Well, that’s in character, anyway!’
See also: character, of, out

in character

Consistent with someone's general character or behavior: behavior that was totally in character.
See also: character

out of character

Inconsistent with someone's general character or behavior: a response so much out of character that it amazed me.
See also: character, of, out
References in classic literature ?
It aims largely to interest and delight, to throw over life a pleasing glamor; it generally deals with love or heroic adventure; and it generally locates its scenes and characters in distant times and places, where it can work unhampered by our consciousness of the humdrum actualities of our daily experience.
But with secondary characters the principles of emphasis and proportion generally forbid very distinct individualization; and sometimes, especially in comedy
In such cases, he must generally be judged to have succeeded if he has established an apparent unity, say by mingling the same characters in the two actions, so that readers are not readily conscious of the lack of real structural unity.
Those relations to the best men, which, at one time, we reckoned the romances of youth, become, in the progress of the character, the most solid enjoyment.
We shall one day see that the most private is the most public energy, that quality atones for quantity, and grandeur of character acts in the dark, and succors them who never saw it.
I do not forgive in my friends the failure to know a fine character and to entertain it with thankful hospitality.
What, then, are the distinctive characters of the republican form?
Leaving the characters we may now analyze the contents of the Republic, and then proceed to consider (1) The general aspects of this Hellenic ideal of the State, (2) The modern lights in which the thoughts of Plato may be read.
The laws governing inheritance are quite unknown; no one can say why the same peculiarity in different individuals of the same species, and in individuals of different species, is sometimes inherited and sometimes not so; why the child often reverts in certain characters to its grandfather or grandmother or other much more remote ancestor; why a peculiarity is often transmitted from one sex to both sexes or to one sex alone, more commonly but not exclusively to the like sex.
They believe that every race which breeds true, let the distinctive characters be ever so slight, has had its wild prototype.
livia, with its geographical sub-species, only two or three other species of rock-pigeons are known; and these have not any of the characters of the domestic breeds.
To us, the belief in God, in goodness at all, in the story of Bethlehem, does not rest on evidence so diverse in character and force as Mrs.
He looked with hate and loathing on the poverty and downfall of his family, and treated his mother with haughty contempt, although he knew that his whole future depended on her character and reputation.
He had long pondered, too, over his relations with Aglaya, and had persuaded himself that with such a strange, childish, innocent character as hers, things might have ended very differently.
It would have been inconsistent with her character if in these visits she had been pursuing a chimera; her project was not chimerical at all; she was building on a firm basis--on her knowledge of the character of the Epanchin family, especially Aglaya, whom she studied closely.