List of Descriptive Words: Adjectives, Adverbs, & Participles

Which is more intriguing — a dark, spooky night or a pitch-black, starless, ominous night? Would you rather eat a delicious cake or a mouthwatering, sugar-sweet chocolate cake? Using descriptive words makes readers feel like they’re in your scene instead of just reading it. When you’ve got the proper list of descriptive words, you can easily turn handsome into chiseled or pretty into dazzling.

lists of descriptive adjectives, adverbs, and participles lists of descriptive adjectives, adverbs, and participles
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Adjectives as Descriptive Words

Adjectives are descriptive words that modify nouns. They’re what you need to tell the difference between an acrobatic cat, a delirious cat, and a precious cat (or maybe a cat that’s all three). 

acrobatic

adorable

adventurous

bitter

boundless

bright

brilliant

brittle

delirious

diminutive

exultant

filthy

foolhardy

gregarious

intrepid

jocular

joyful

jubilant

keen

kooky

lanky

lazy

limp

lush

luxurious

macabre

magnanimous

mellow

miserable

nimble

nocturnal

opulent

ornate

ordinary

palatial

parsimonious

peevish

picturesque

potent

practical

precious

putrid

questionable

quirky

radiant

raspy

rustic

scornful

scrumptious

silky

sly

spider-like

spectacular

tentacular

tense

thorny

verdant

whimsical

woeful

zesty

Adverbs as Descriptive Words

Use an adverb to describe an action rather than a noun, or if you want to add even more detail to an adjective. Most adverbs end in -ly (though not all of them), and they’re helpful ways to strengthen your writing.

amusingly

angrily

apathetically

assertively

begrudgingly

blissfully

blithely

boldly

boisterously

chillingly

coyly

darkly

dazzlingly

deafeningly

dutifully

eagerly

facetiously

faintly

falteringly

frivolously

greedily

grimly

gloweringly

guiltily

hastily

hungrily

intelligently

kindly

lavishly

lazily

listlessly

masterfully

meagerly

methodically

naively

narrowly

neglectfully

nerve-wrackingly

numbly

offensively

passionately

pleasantly

pointlessly

quickly

rapidly

rashly

secretly

seriously

swiftly

tactfully

teasingly

tenderly

timorously

tragically

underhandedly

vacantly

vividly

weirdly

youthfully

zealously

Participles as Descriptive Words

You can even use verbs as describing words — although they’re called participles in that context. Past participles end in -ed or -en, present participles end in -ing, and they all look like descriptive words that you probably use all the time.

acclaimed

accomplished

amazing

amused

baby-faced

battered

beaten

bleeding

boring

broken

blushing

bow-legged

captivating

cluttered

confusing

chosen

complicated

condemned

crystallized

customized

dazzling

depressed

disgusting

distressing

disturbing

dreaming

driven

dyed

embarrassing

exciting

far-reaching

fascinated

freckled

frustrating

hard-hearted

humiliating

interesting

irritating

lying

melted

mouthwatering

peaked

puzzling

relaxing

riveting

satisfied

scared

scented

shocking

sickening

side-splitting

staggering

sweeping

tattered

threatening

thrilled

tired

towering

weathered

wrinkled

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Using Descriptive Words in Your Writing

Descriptive words help paint a picture in the reader's mind. The sentence "It was windy," might give the reader information, but it's not very descriptive. Consider how much imagery you can add with the words gusty, torrential, breezy, or windswept in front of your nouns.

Using descriptive words can:

  • bring characters to life in a novel or short story
  • sell an item in a product advertisement
  • convince an audience in a persuasive writing piece
  • explain the setting of a news story
  • provide instructions for a DIY project

Using illustrative descriptors makes your writing impossible to put down. Whether you're using descriptive words in poetry or informational writing, there are always opportunities to make sentences more vivid.

Describing Our World With Words

When it comes to using descriptive words, variety is key. Go beyond the list of adjectives, adverbs, and participles above to help you set the scene with just the right imagery.