Writing about the illustrations of John Tenniel and their theatricality (e.g.), I remembered there being a single word for the expression of character through a person's posture, movement, and/or countenance, but I can't think of the word.
I've searched for synonyms for 'theatrical' and 'caricature', but nothing came up. I feel as if it is somehow linked to 'hysteria', but idem ditto.

It's not 'histrionic', because that doesn't necessarily suggest a connection between the character of the person and their behaviour.

Neither is it limited to theatricality or the theatre, as these behaviorisms tend to occur naturally. It is however often used in theatre and illustrations, so the audience gets a direct and clear idea of the actors.

A recognizable example of the concept would be how a sly character stoops and squints. Another would be how J. J. Grandville chose the animals for his anthropomorphic characters.

NB If there is anything I can add to improve my question, please let me know!

3 Answers 3


I rather like mien.

air (see AIR entry 1 sense 3c) or bearing especially as expressive of attitude or personality : DEMEANOR.

of aristocratic mien

of somber mien

the mien of a choirboy

(Source: Merriam-Webster)

If that doesn't quite fit the bill, see the "Choose the right synonym for mien" section, op. cit..

BEARING, DEPORTMENT, DEMEANOR, MIEN, MANNER, CARRIAGE mean the outward manifestation of personality or attitude. BEARING is the most general of these words but now usually implies characteristic posture. a woman of regal bearing DEPORTMENT suggests actions or behavior as formed by breeding or training. your deportment was atrocious DEMEANOR suggests one's attitude toward others as expressed in outward behavior. the haughty demeanor of the headwaiter MIEN is a literary term referring both to bearing and demeanor. a mien of supreme self-satisfaction MANNER implies characteristic or customary way of moving and gesturing and addressing others. the imperious manner of a man used to giving orders CARRIAGE applies chiefly to habitual posture in standing or walking. the kind of carriage learned at boarding school

Bearing has something to do with posture. And perhaps demeanor works. It is mentioned above (and in comments) but seems to be more toward outward behavior. Mien may be slightly preferable in that it is "a literary term referring both to bearing and demeanor. "

  • I've never actually heard of that word. And I like how it explicitly is "expressive of attitude or personality", both innate characteristic, of which especially the second is what I was looking for. I don't get the "outward manifestation of personality or attitude" from 'demeanor' (though likely etymologically related) or 'deportment', so this is definitely an improvement over those. Thanks!
    – Joachim
    Apr 14, 2021 at 12:13
  • 1
    You're welcome, and always a pleasure to dust off a word that I don't use too often. There are several questions on EL&U that have to do with mien. A couple that may be of interest: english.stackexchange.com/questions/370876/… and english.stackexchange.com/questions/465815/… .
    – rajah9
    Apr 14, 2021 at 20:56

Though it doesn't usually include countenance, deportment may do the trick.


British The way a person stands and walks, particularly as an element of etiquette.

‘His whole aspect and deportment is such that it suggests that he can't even sit still and read a book in a quiet and un-cheeky manner.’

A few examples:

A Justice of the Peace, by his deportment, (that is, his demeanour, dress, conduct, and general behaviour—in both his public and private life), will not only command the respect and admiration of his colleagues and the public, but will aslo exemplify by such deportment the honour and dignity of the office. (Legal Supplement Part C to the “Trinidad and Tobago Gazette’’, Vol. 40,No. 184, 28th September, 2001)

He had early entered into military life; had borne both a Dutch and a French commission; had seen real service, had travelled, was master of the English language, and evinced, by his deportment, that he was no stranger to the society of gentlemen. ( The Sceptical Young Officer, Rev. Dr. J. M. Mason, of New York)

Ancus Marcius called Tarquin into his presence and was allegedly so affected by his deportment that he soon made it his habit to consult Tarquin on a number of topics, both public and private. (Tanaquil (fl. late 7th–early 6th BCE), William S. Greenwalt , Professor of Classical History, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California)

  • Perhaps "demeanor" would be closer in meaning... but it is nothing like "histrionic".
    – user22542
    Apr 13, 2021 at 10:30
  • This is a synonym of 'histrionic', and, like 'histrionic', there is no necessary relationship between someone's 'deportment' and their character (which I think user22542 means as well).
    – Joachim
    Apr 14, 2021 at 11:10
  • @Joachim Deportment is in no way a synonym of histrionic in the sense 'given to or marked by attention-getting behavior suggestive of stage acting' or 'having the general quality or effect of a stage performance ' as given by the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
    – DW256
    Apr 14, 2021 at 11:28
  • Yes, sorry, that was poorly phrased. My point was simply that, similar to 'histrionic', 'deportment' doesn't indicate a relationship between someone's behaviour and their innate characteristics, which is what I'm after.
    – Joachim
    Apr 14, 2021 at 11:36
  • @22542 'demeanor' is probably the best answer here; I was about to give it until I saw your comment. Collins' definition is perhaps the most suitable. Apr 14, 2021 at 11:38

Is this what you're looking for?


a characteristic and often unconscious mode or peculiarity of action, bearing, or treatment

The actor can mimic the President's mannerisms perfectly.


Someone's mannerisms are the gestures or ways of speaking which are very characteristic of them, and which they often use.

His mannerisms are more those of a preoccupied math professor.


  • 1
    No, because a mannerism is not necessarily related to someone's character or personality and only an aspect of someone's outward appearance.
    – Joachim
    Apr 14, 2021 at 12:32

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