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My family and I play a sort of twenty questions-esque guessing game where one player must think of something other players must reason to with yes or no questions.

The game generally starts with the person, place, or thing question, but contention arose when I argued with someone else about including non-human (not a person) characters like Micky Mouse, or the teapot in Beauty and the Beast in the person category.

I argue they should be included because they will have more similar characteristics with things in the person category than others, but the word person is not apt to describe a talking teapot.

Is there an English word that is fitting to describe all real people, fictional people, and anthropomorphized things?

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    Single word requests should include a sample sentence demonstrating how the word would be used. – KillingTime May 14 at 6:21
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    For purposes of your game you could have a house rule that "human" refers to, well, humans, real or fictional, and "person" includes humans and characters such as Mickey Mouse, Mrs Potts, and Thanos, and fantasy races like elves and hobbits, etc. – nnnnnn May 14 at 7:59
  • @SethPainter You can use the suggested personalities and characters to include both real and imaginary people and anthropomorphized things, but personality tends more towards real people, and character tends towards fictional/mytholgical/anthropomorphized people and things. ++ I don't think that there is a single word, which would have at least 4 meanings. ++ You will have to use a phrase, e.g. "Any person or character, real or imaginary..." – Greybeard May 14 at 9:08
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I think the word "character" fits your purposes. That is what they are usually called.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Disney%27s_Beauty_and_the_Beast_characters

Or "persona", maybe... ( = A role or character adopted by an author or an actor.)

https://www.lexico.com/definition/persona

But I'd go with the former.

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You could ask if the thing is animate (adjective):

  1. alive or having life.
    "gods in a wide variety of forms, both animate and inanimate"

ODO

Note that this is pronounced differently to animate (verb). The IPA pronunciation is /ˈanɪmət/ rather than /ˈanɪmeɪt/.


Alternatively there is personality:

  1. the quality or fact of being a person as distinct from a thing or animal.

ODO

But that is apparently archaic, and could be confused with the more popular definition of 'a celebrity or famous person'.

You could ask "Does it have a personality", as long as they don't include nostalgia (i.e. my old car has such a personality).

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  • I like this solution, but I think it might be worth it to get more specific. Maybe the word should not include any non-specific animal, as this is a favorite category. For example, a cow is animate, but any old cow wouldn't fit into the category of characters and real people, as everything in this category is distinct and there exists only one of it. – Seth Painter May 14 at 6:46
  • Yes, I see what you mean. The only other thing I can think of is 'personality', as in "the quality or fact of being a person as distinct from a thing or animal." which is definition 3 on lexico.com and apparently is archaic. – marcellothearcane May 14 at 7:14
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    I know a lot of people who would argue that their pets have personalities, and there are fictional animals such as Lassie that are portrayed as having a personality but which are still to be taken as animals. – nnnnnn May 14 at 8:08
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Unfortunately, there is no single word that can accomplish all of the traits you are thinking of. Even if there were such a word in terms of its strict dictionary definition, people would not assume it to include all of those things by common usage.

The fact that there is such a struggle to come up with something simple is indicative of the fact that there isn't something simple.

When playing the game, and choosing between the preexisting words used in the game (person, place, or thing), your only option is to use a descriptive phrase:

"By person, I mean a real or fictional thinking individual or entity."


All of those words need to be used in order to eliminate confusion over the use of any single word without qualification.

For instance, any of the primary words suggested in all of the answers and comments here could easily be assumed to only apply to the real world, so the phrase real or fictional has to be added in order to provide clarity.

Similarly, look at the main parts of the respective definitions of the relevant senses of individual and entity, per Merriam-Webster:

a particular being or thing as distinguished from a class, species, or collection

something that has separate and distinct existence and objective or conceptual reality

Both of those words, per their definitions, could apply to a human, a cow, or a teapot. But the idiomatic use of those words normally has people think of individuals as humans, and entities as non-humans.

Last, the adjective thinking also has to be applied, because it's not enough that you're talking about an unintelligent and inactive person, animal, or thing. You're talking about people, animals, or things that are aware and active (at least in theory or part, as in the case of Sleeping Beauty and its mostly somnolent victim).

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personality

pur-suh-nal-i-tee

/noun

plural personalities

1) the visible aspect of one's character as it impresses others

2) a person as an embodiment of a collection of qualities

...

6) something apprehended as reflective of or analogous to a distinctive human personality, as the atmosphere of a place or thing:

This house has a warm personality.

Source: Dictionary.com

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