Examples of Physical Characteristics in Humans

, Staff Writer
Updated January 5, 2023
definition of "physical characteristic" with list of examples restated from the article
    portrait of smiling young man with physical characteristic definition and example list
    FG Trade / E+ / Getty Images / via Getty created by YourDictionary
    Used under Getty Images license

Physical characteristics are defining traits or features of a person's body. These are aspects of appearance that are visually apparent to others, even with no other information about the person. They can include a variety of things. Hair and facial features play a big role but aren’t the whole picture. Physical characteristics are what you see with the naked eye. They encompass any way you can describe the physical traits of a person or group of people based on what you can visually observe.

Physical Characteristics: What You Notice First

The first thing you see when you look at someone could be their hair, clothes, nose, or figure. These are all examples of physical characteristics. To get good examples of a person's physical characteristics, consider factors relevant to their physical appearance, such as their build, face and other physical traits.


Build Characteristics

When describing the physical characteristics of an individual, one of the first things that will strike you is their overall build or body type. Many common adjectives can be used to describe the build of a person.

  • plump
  • chubby
  • stocky
  • overweight
  • fat
  • pudgy
  • medium build
  • small frame
  • large frame
  • athletic build
  • slender
  • lanky
  • fit
  • slim
  • trim
  • skinny
  • skeletal
  • buff
  • toned
  • muscular
  • ripped
  • well built

Height Characteristics

Another area of physical appearance you may consider is how tall a person is. While you can't really determine a person's exact height without measuring them, chances are you'll notice what general category best captures their individual height.

  • short
  • tall
  • petite
  • average height
  • above average height
  • below average height
  • tiny
  • extremely short
  • extremely tall
  • towering

Complexion Characteristics

When describing someone's skin tone and complexion, there are a number of descriptive words to consider. It's often necessary to use more than one word to accurately describe a person's complexion. For example, someone can be fair and freckled or tan and freckled.

  • dark
  • light
  • fair
  • medium
  • rosy
  • olive
  • white
  • black
  • brown
  • pale
  • pasty
  • bronzed
  • tan
  • freckled
  • jaundiced
  • wan
  • pale

More Skin Characteristics

A person's complexion isn't the only characteristic associated with the appearance of their skin. A number of other traits or features can be described to convey the appearance of a person's skin.

  • age spots
  • clear
  • dry
  • dewy
  • oily
  • pimply
  • scarred
  • crows feet
  • fine lines
  • wrinkled
  • cracked
  • dirty
  • clean
  • rough
  • smooth

Eye Color and Other Eye Characteristics

Human eyes don't all look the same. The color, shape and positioning of a person's eyes are examples of physical traits that impact their overall appearance.

  • blue eyes
  • green eyes
  • hazel eyes
  • brown eyes
  • small eyes
  • large eyes
  • wide eyes
  • slanted eyes
  • close-set eyes
  • deep-set eyes
  • bushy eyebrows
  • thin eyebrows
  • sparse eyebrows
  • sculpted eyebrows
  • dark eyebrows
  • light eyebrows
  • long eyelashes
  • short eyelashes
  • dark eyelashes
  • light eyelashes

More Facial Features

All of a person's facial features impact how their physical appearance could be described. Any distinguishing characteristics of a person's face can be discussed in the category of facial features.

  • short nose
  • narrow nose
  • broad nose
  • long nose
  • pert nose
  • snub nose
  • high cheekbones
  • sunken cheekbones
  • chubby cheeks
  • rosy cheeks
  • long face
  • heart-shaped face
  • round face
  • oval face
  • thin face
  • thin lips
  • full lips
  • pink lips
  • red lips
  • pouty lips
  • pointy chin

Hair Characteristics

The appearance of a person's hair has a significant impact on their physical appearance. The words that you'd use to characterize someone's hair can describe color, texture, shape, length, and more.

  • blond
  • auburn
  • red
  • brown
  • black
  • grey
  • white
  • long
  • puffy
  • matted
  • flat
  • bouncy
  • short
  • curly
  • frizzy
  • wavy
  • permed
  • straight
  • natural
  • bald
  • receding
  • greasy
  • shiny

Improving Perceptions: Your Physical Characteristics

Rightly or wrongly, physical characteristics can play a role in defining how people are viewed by others, especially in terms of forming first impressions. While many physical characteristics can't be changed, there are things you can do to help ensure positive perceptions of your physical characteristics if you want to. Small changes can have an impact on how positively others see you.

  • Good hygiene shows that you take care of yourself.
  • In some cultures, appropriate eye contact can demonstrate respect or interest.
  • A friendly smile can show that you're approachable.

More Ways to Discuss Appearance

People are born with certain physical characteristics, which work together to create their physical appearance. While people often style or dye their hair or get contact lenses, ultimately, it's important to embrace your own unique physical characteristics, as well as those of others. Judgment is never the way to go; stick to positive terms when describing what someone looks like. Use these descriptive words for appearance for inspiration. Then, start considering how to describe personality.