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I'm looking for the appropriate English term for what I'd call a "große Persönlichkeit" in German.

  • This is not about someone who is famous,
  • neither about someone who tries to appear superior than others by making them small
  • but means someone who is wise, reflected, (possibly brave), emotionally stable and independent (in the positive sense), superior (in a way that doesn't oppress but rather the opposite) and has a good influence on other people, also by being a good example
  • This rough translation of a more or less idiomatic rule of thumb may also help to explain: A "große Persönlichket" will help other people to grow, while a "kleine Persönlichkeit" (small? personality?) will keep people down/small(?)/oppress people in order to seem larger (?)

Actually the last point is the context I want to explain in English.

I'm really unsure which of the "groß" (great/large/big/?) terms is appropriate and whether to use personality or character or something else.

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@FumbleFingers: no, that guy at the other question is someone very different fromt the personality I'm looking for. –  cbeleites Feb 4 at 23:54
    
They both (and others I recall but can't find just now) look much the same to me. What do you call a really great guy with all the positive attributes I can think of? –  FumbleFingers Feb 4 at 23:56
    
@FumbleFingers: but "my" guy would most probably not be the "most interesting man in the world commercials". As for Nietzsche's Übermensch in the 1st answer there: AFAIK Nietzsche's philosophy does not put great weight on social interactions - so his Übermensch is (if I understood correctly) rather of a lone wolf type. Moreover, the große Persönlichkeit would rather put more emphasis on not abusing his power than on the power itself. –  cbeleites Feb 5 at 0:03
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Emotionally stable and a good example? Maybe not so interesting... :p –  nxx Feb 5 at 0:12
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5 Answers 5

up vote 6 down vote accepted

What comes to my mind is "a person of great character" or "of noble character", where "character" has the meaning

moral excellence and firmness

This site has some interesting reading on this meaning of the word:

During the 1800s, “character was a key word in the vocabulary of Englishmen and Americans,” and men were spoken of as having strong or weak character, good or bad character, a great deal of character or no character at all. Young people were admonished to cultivate real character, high character, and noble character and told that character was the most priceless thing they could ever attain. Starting at the beginning of the 20th century, however, Susman found that the ideal of character began to be replaced by that of personality.

"A person of integrity" would also work well, but personally I feel that something with "character" is better, as there is a sense that character is cultivated, and from a desire to generally be a good, noble, etc, person, whereas "integrity" can be an affectation.

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Excellent link - also the chart helps me to sort out vocabulary! Side question: would a strong character be unambiguously positive (as is rests in him/herself) or does it have a "always has to have his way, no matter what" connotation? –  cbeleites Feb 5 at 0:15
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It can connote someone who is pushy and obstinate - and is often used as a polite way to describe someone like that - but not always. Have a look at the section titled "Synonym Discussion of STRONG" here: merriam-webster.com/dictionary/strong. It will give you some ideas of words you might use instead of "strong" to avoid the negative connotations. –  nxx Feb 5 at 0:21
    
I'm confused: e.g. the Wikipedia explanation of "integrity" is perfectly in line with the German adjective "integer" (a trait) - but this is not compatible with affectation which I read as predending to be [fair and honest etc.] !? Anyways: thanks a lot - I think the "person of great character" will do nicely. –  cbeleites Feb 5 at 0:44
    
I was thinking in terms of the first numbered definition in the link I gave: "firm adherence to a code [...]", which may or may not be inline with a person's genuine nature. You can blindly follow the law, for example, without any real belief in its value. –  nxx Feb 5 at 1:16
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Actually, that it "can be" in opposition. But I was just trying to compare subtle, possible differences between character and integrity. You don't have to read too much into it :) –  nxx Feb 5 at 1:41
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You could also do magnanimous which is the older English adjective taken from Aristotle's account of the virtuous person. The new adjective in more recent translations is "great-hearted" man.

Among the virtues Aristotle includes as requirements are social graces and forms of generosity that seem coterminable with what you are describing.

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In daily usage, people refer to someone as being "small" or "petty" to express the idea behind the "kleine" person you mention.

In terms of the "große," I don't think there's a single word that encompasses all that you describe. I think instead, speakers normally apply something specific, or simply say "he/she is a leader." Sometimes you do hear someone say "That was big of you" when someone goes out of their way to do the right thing, but "he is a big person" only communicates something about his physical size. The term "great" is used so often that it becomes bland in most contexts. Occasionally, the term "the Great" is used to refer to people, but these are almost always famous people ("Alexander the Great").

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You might try to translate "große Persönlichket" as "gracious" person. You could possibly call them "grand" (but not grandiose). You might also call them "generous", though you would have to add context to clarify that you don't necessarily mean with money, but rather emotionally.

When contrasting this behaviour with "petty" behaviour (typical of a kleine Persönlichkeit), you can say of someone with a große Persönlichkeit that they are "bigger" than that, or that they are a "bigger person" than that.

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A quick translation of "große Persönlichkeit" via translate.google.com yielded "Great Personality". From your description of what you are trying to convey, I believe that other terms could be "Uplifting Personality" or "Positive Influence".

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I saw that translation, but was not sure about the connotations. –  cbeleites Feb 4 at 23:17
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