I would like one or more synonyms for anal retentive.

I was chatting last night in an mmorpg, and any message with the word anal was banned. I ended up talking about my canal retentive minus c guild-mate instead.

  • 2
    Also, I forgot in my answer (and it's more of a comment): anal-retentive takes a hyphen!
    – F'x
    Commented Feb 16, 2011 at 20:50
  • Hah! Trolling in trade chat, I see. I can take a wild guess as to which mmorpg it was. :)
    – Will
    Commented Feb 16, 2011 at 22:03
  • @fx: it only requires a hyphen if used as an adjective: "He is anal retentive" & "What an anal-retentive way of doing things"
    – horatio
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 15:08
  • I saw a sig quote once asking "does 'anal retentive' have a hyphen?". Of course an anal-retentive person would know, which has led to the shorthand in my social circle of "hyphenated". E.g. "he's being very hyphenated today". :-) (And @horatio, it's still an adjective in your first sentence, same as "blue" is in "he is blue".) Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 20:30
  • Actually, I should have said "phrasal adjective." But you knew that already.
    – horatio
    Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 21:18

8 Answers 8


I would probably go with fussy. Other possibilities include finicky, persnickety, hair-splitting, or simply the broader difficult.

  • 1
    You forgot 'nit-picking'?
    – Jez
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 11:15
  • 3
    @Jez: It could go, but without the hyphen: nitpicking
    – F'x
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 11:27

"Uptight" or "Type A" (as in 'personality'.)


Less of a synonym than an allusion via an incorrect and overly literal interpretation of what anal-retentive means, but for a situation like the one you describe, you may get good mileage out of constipated.


I would go with one of the following phrases/words:

  • Excessively fussy
  • Excessively orderly
  • Punctilious
  • Finicky
  • Persnickety
  • Demanding
  • Hard to please
  • Picky

A few more options:

  • Obsessive
  • OCD
  • Diligent for a more positive spin. Something tells me this doesn't fit your context though.

You can use perfectionism.

All the above have negative connotations and being anal-retentive can be very positive — especially in journalism, fact-checking, and mathematics.


I would say that 'control freak' is a pretty good synonym for anally-retentive.

  • They can be related but I'm not sure that control-freakery equates to obsession over detail. Control-freaks often don't mind a mess as long as it's their mess.
    – itsbruce
    Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 14:56
  • fastidious
  • persnickity
  • choosy
  • finicky
  • difficult
  • particular

and I really liked

  • constipated (;

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