Suppose someone often has his own idea, opinon and judgment on a lot of things, regardless of whether his agree with others'. I wonder what kinds of words can be used to describe such a quality/characteristic/personality?

Added: Such a person does not need to show to others that they are strong-minded, or even may not like to speak out their mind on purpose.

In negative way, I think maybe "stubborn"? Honestly, I feel hurt if being called this way. Am I too sensitive? What else is better?

How about in neutral and positive ways respectively? Added: Can "strong-minded" serve the positive purpose?

  • "Strong-minded" serves right when you want to be neutral about this quality. – Irene Dec 19 '11 at 17:59

12 Answers 12


The only way I can think of this quality being expressed in a positive way is with the word self-assertive. It means that you aren't afraid to express your own opinions (you certainly have quite a few opinions of your own if you are self-assertive) and that you also feel confident in doing so.

  • Thanks! Does "self-assertive" apply whether or not such a person thinks they need to show their mind? – Tim Dec 19 '11 at 17:50
  • I think [self-]assertive is much the same as opinionated, in that it strongly implies one who expresses his views more than most, rather than one who tends to have clear-cut opinions but doesn't necessarily push them onto others. – FumbleFingers Dec 19 '11 at 17:54
  • @Tim: I think FumbleFingers' comment answers your query. – Irene Dec 19 '11 at 17:57
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    I think self-assertive can be used in a straightforward, complimentary manner (it is a quality you might look for in an employee, for example). But it is so frequently used a a euphemism for boorishness, that you can't really trust it. – slim Dec 19 '11 at 18:01
  • @slim: I don't think a couple of managers discussing the qualities they look for in interview candidates would normally say they want self-assertive people. They'd be much more likely to look for self-confidence. – FumbleFingers Dec 19 '11 at 18:20

Iconoclast might seem a little strong for your use, but it has a positive ring to it. Non-conformist can be a compliment.


@slim's opinionated covers those cases where a person vociferously announces their views to anyone who will listen, but it's almost always used pejoratively. Often there's the implication that the opinionated person has non-standard opinions on anything and everything, purely for the sake of promoting argument/discussion.

For people who know what they think, but doesn't make a habit forcing their thoughts on others, strong-minded, clear-sighted, and similar expressions are common. But my favourites are perspicacious - having keen mental perception and understanding, and in more informal contexts, no-nonsense - sensible, practical, straightforward. Both of these strongly imply you're speaking of someone who knows exactly what he thinks, and is not easily persuaded otherwise.

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    Perspicacity isn't quite the same thing though. The more I think about it, the more it seems as if the English speaking world is fairly united in condemning strongly held, inflexible opinions. – slim Dec 19 '11 at 17:59
  • @slim: "the English speaking world is fairly united in condemning strongly held, inflexible opinions", really? I feel so sad, although I don't think such a person can not be flexible. – Tim Dec 19 '11 at 18:01
  • @Tim, slim: What's wrong with deploring people who hold strong opinions? We live in the "Age of Reason", where hopefully all actual "truths" are broadly agreed on. Only things which are still a matter of debate should be relevant to people holding opinions, and if they hold them too strongly they are in serious danger of failing to recognise when they are in fact mistaken. – FumbleFingers Dec 19 '11 at 18:07
  • @FumbleFingers: "What's wrong with deploring people who hold strong opinions?" do you mean such people are wrong? I feel sad that people that are trying to be perspicacious are taken as stubborn. – Tim Dec 19 '11 at 18:10
  • @Tim: Of course not. But if two different people with strong opinions disagree, I suspect that statistically speaking they would be less likely to arrive at the truth of the matter through discussion than two people who are interested, yet don't have particularly strong opinions. We only usually admire stubbornly opiniated people much later, if and when it turns out that most of us agree with their position. – FumbleFingers Dec 19 '11 at 18:14

What about independent?

In terms of idioms, the phrase "marches to the beat of a different drummer" comes to mind. (origin from Thoreau's "Walden", the exact quote is a little bit different)


Autonomous or independent-minded. Both far more positive than strong-minded which is interpreted as merely stubborn or opinionated which is viewed as controversial.


I might call such a person a free thinker, which has roughly the same meaning and connotation as iconoclast but is more easily understood.


My own reading of the word "opinionated" seems to fulfil this in a neutral sense. To me it simply means "having many and strong opinions".

However, the two dictionaries I've consulted say "Holding stubbornly and often unreasonably to one's own opinions" and "obstinate or conceited with regard to the merit of one's own opinions". So perhaps it's not what you want.

  • Thanks! Is it in a negative sense? How about comparing it to stubborn? – Tim Dec 19 '11 at 17:31
  • Can "opinionated" be used whether or not such a person does not need to show to others that they are strong-minded, or even may not like to speak out their mind on purpose?? – Tim Dec 19 '11 at 17:34
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    I think "opinionated" can serve well for very negative purpose. – Tim Dec 19 '11 at 17:47

A word that expresses holding to your "own idea, opinon and judgment" in a neutral, or even positive way is resolute:

resolute, adj.: firm in purpose or belief


One common idiom is that such a person "dances to the beat of their own drum"

The quote comes from Henry David Thoreau: "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."

  • Agreed, and good answer, but Jason S already suggested essentially the same thing. – Bradd Szonye Sep 6 '13 at 20:53

Maverick. Being independent in thought and action or exhibiting such independence http://www.thefreedictionary.com/maverick


know one's own mind

› to be ​certain about what you ​believe or ​want

Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus


I would call them self-assured, meaning that they are confident in their own opinions, regardless of the actual validity of them.

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