List of Descriptive Words: Adjectives, Adverbs & Participles

Descriptive language appeals to all five of our senses: taste, touch, sight, smell, and sound. When used correctly, descriptive words can make your writing more vivid and compelling. Choose from a list of descriptive words, including adjectives, adverbs and participles, that is sure to enhance your writing.

Descriptive Words Adjectives Adverbs and Participles Descriptive Words Adjectives Adverbs and Participles
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Adjectives as Descriptive Words

Adjectives are the most common type of descriptive words. They help us know that a sunset is gorgeous or a cat is acrobatic. Explore a list of adjective examples.

acrobatic

adorable

adventurous

brave

bright

brilliant

concrete

conventional

delirious

foolhardy

gregarious

grim

handsome

handy

intelligent

intrepid

joyful

jubilant

keen

kooky

lanky

lazy

limp

luxurious

mediocre

mellow

miserable

nocturnal

organic

ornate

ordinary

powerless

practical

precious

questionable

quirky

radiant

rustic

sly

sophisticated

stunning

tattered

thorny

verdant

weathered

Adjectives typically come before the noun they describe. However, when you use a predicate adjective to modify your subject, you’ll find the adjective after the noun. You can also use adjectives and the words after them as adjective phrases for even more descriptive power!

Adverbs as Descriptive Words

While adjectives provide further description for nouns, adverbs modify other parts of speech, including verbs, adjectives and other adverbs. Adverbs describe concepts such as time, place, circumstance, manner, or degree.

amusingly

angrily

apathetically

assertively

begrudgingly

blissfully

chillingly

coyly

darkly

dazzlingly

deafeningly

dutifully

eagerly

faintly

frivolously

greedily

hastily

intelligently

kindly

lavishly

lazily

listlessly

masterfully

meagerly

methodically

neglectfully

normally

offensively

passionately

pleasantly

pointlessly

quickly

rapidly

rashly

secretly

seriously

swiftly

tactfully

teasingly

tragically

vacantly

vividly

weirdly

youthfully

zealously

As you scroll through the list of descriptive adverbs, you'll notice that the adverbs all end in -ly. However, remember that there are other examples of adverbs, like "almost" or "seldom," that do not share this ending. Using the proper amount of adverbs can really strengthen your writing.

Participles as Descriptive Words

When verbs function as describing words, they’re known as participles. You’ll find participles before nouns they modify, just like adjectives. Past participles end in -ed or -en, while present participles end in -ing.

acclaimed

accomplished

amazing

amused

battered

beaten

bleeding

boring

broken

confusing

chosen

complicated

condemned

crystallized

customized

depressed

disgusting

distressing

disturbing

dreaming

driven

dyed

embarrassing

exciting

fascinated

frustrating

humiliating

interesting

irritating

lying

melted

overwhelmed

puzzling

relaxing

riveting

satisfied

scared

shocking

sickening

sweeping

threatening

thrilled

tired

worried

wrinkled

It’s easy to mix present participles up with gerunds, which also end in -ing. However, gerunds are verbs that function as nouns (such as “Swimming is my favorite hobby”) while participles are verbs that function as adjectives (such as “Look at the swimming boy). When you use a participle and the words after it as an adjective, you're using a participial phrase. Try using them at the beginning of a sentence to vary your style!

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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 descriptors effectively 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. The list of adjectives, adverbs and participles above can help you set the scene with just the right imagery. Appeal to your readers' senses with a list of descriptive words for scents. You can also discover how to describe an aquatic scene with these water words for descriptive writing.