What I mean by "high and mighty" (though I realise this term does not exactly paint anyone in a nice light) are characters who know their worth and know themselves to be better than numerous other people, but are not condescending towards others and do not lack compassion and empathy. They are simply imbued with a sense of grandeur in everything they do, and it is not exaggerated or non-warranted. I mean characters with self-confidence. But I didn't use the term self-confidence because the mindset I'd like to describe goes beyond plain self-confidence. I guess I mean characters who believe or sense they are above others, yet it doesn't make them arrogant or vain.

I tried looking up different synonyms by myself already, which is my first step when lacking words to describe what I want, and could only find words with negative nuances, which is not at all what I'm interested in. I'm mostly looking for adequate terms rather descriptions of behaviours.

  • Welcome to Writing.SE FMB. Please check out our tour and help center. I'm finding your question unclear. Do you mean characters with wisdom and self-confidence? Or do you mean characters with the privilege that comes with wealth (or at least non-poverty) and being within the favored groups when it comes to jobs, treatment by law enforcement, and expectations from service people? These are very different things.
    – Cyn
    Jun 22, 2019 at 15:15
  • I mean characters with self-confidence. But I didn't use the term self-confidence because the mindset I'd like to describe goes beyond plain self-confidence. I guess I mean characters who believe or sense they are above others, yet it doesn't make them arrogant or vain.
    – FMB
    Jun 22, 2019 at 16:47
  • Could you please edit the question with the additional information? More details would be welcome. There are lots of reasons why someone has self-confidence and arrogance is high on the list. Thanks.
    – Cyn
    Jun 22, 2019 at 16:58

4 Answers 4


What I am getting from your question is that you are looking for the right vocabulary for dealing with people with a degree of personal charisma and a natural sense of their place (at the top) in the world. Chances are, these are people with some degree of privilege.

Someone with that sort of personal gravity is most likely going to be a strong leader. You could start by looking for articles on leadership and biographies of powerful leaders. Google has you covered, here. In a general search, you may have to wade through a fair amount of junk to find some gems as this is a topic area that gets a lot of hot air.

Forbes' annual ranking of the world's most powerful people may give you some good (and some bad) real-life case studies to work from.

You are probably looking for characteristics such as:

  • Good communication
  • Maturity (at least in positive cases)
  • Compassion (again, only in positive cases)
  • Confidence
  • Listening skills

The most effective and charismatic (and often initially overwhelmingly charming) business leaders seem to ooze both humility, acceptance, and quiet confidence. they make wielding power look easy. that is not a skill you can learn overnight. It takes time, experience, and either a lot of coaching or a privileged background.

In addition, you may be looking for terms such as authoritative, influential, majestic, masterful, puissant, strong, capable, multitalented, magisterial - to name but a few.

People like that tend to be strong mind self-starters. They know what they want and what they feel is right and they can be unrelenting in pursuing their goals. JonStonecash's answer deals with that aspect very well.

I've been as broad as I can in my answer in order to match your question. Hopefully, I have covered some areas that will help you perhaps put together a stronger vocabulary to describe what you are working towards.

I have mentioned privilege a few times because it is a theme that comes up when discussing this level of influence. Having at least a broad understanding of privilege (white, rich, male, etc.) will help you unlock more complex themes in your work - especially in the areas I think you might be shooting for.

Edit: It occurs to me that once you have at least some vocabulary with which to better express your thoughts, English Language and Usage might be a good place to ask about words to express a specific meaning.


I think that the simplest way is to show that they walk the walk in addition to talking the talk. Let's say that James is high-born, proud, and more than somewhat judgmental with respect to his conservative Christian faith. Could be easy to hate such a man. But he gives generously to the charities that support those less well off, he regularly serves in soup kitchens even when there is no one watching, and he contributes time and money to Habitat for Humanity. [You can fill in whatever activities and organizations that make sense in the context of your story.] He also urges others in his "class" to act in similar ways. He is a committed rather than a convenient Christian.

You could also have the folks around him observe that James is a pain in the ass but that he holds himself to the same standards that he holds others to. He does good things, perhaps not in the way that nicer people might do such things, but "on balance" we are better off with him than we would be without him.

Positive, at least in my mind, does not necessarily mean likable. It means that he contributes more than he takes. Have James save a cat but then curse the owner's of the cat for being careless. The trick is to have other characters that are mature enough to see the net value that James brings to the story.


I wouldn't call them "High and Mighty"; that is automatically pejorative and carries the air of "haughty", and disdain for commoners.

I'd portray such people as intelligent, insightful, and perhaps describe them as "Accomplished", "Brilliant", or "Skillful".

There are plenty of sports stars, actors, singers, lawyers and self-made multi-millionaires that fit that bill, that began in the lower or middle class and used a natural skill, honed by years of work and sacrifice, along with brains to become who they are.

They know they are special, they suffer from no delusions that what they did can be done by "anybody". Some know they were just plain lucky to be born with the right combination of genes and brains to succeed. Others that began life rich may be smart enough to know this too, that they didn't choose to be born rich and smart, that was pure luck.

Knowing that, they'd be stupid to hold any disdain for those not born as lucky as them, born with lesser skills, brains, or resources. And they are smart enough to know that being condescending is insulting and non-productive, and smart enough to have compassion for the plight of those born on the opposite end of the spectrum from themselves -- The distinctly unlucky.

To be "imbued with a sense of grandeur" sounds haughty to me, too self-important. I'd just say these people pursue, because it is within their capacity, really big projects and aim for society changing results. They have big ideas, they are highly intelligent, and they are going about the business of leveraging their resources and influence to implement these big ideas.


Literature offers many and varied examples to learn from.

Study Tolkien. Many characters in The Fellowship of the Ring (and the subsequent books of the Lord of the Ring series) fit this description. Examples include but are not limited to: Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins, Gandalf, Saruman, Aragorn, Legolas, Elrond, Boromir, Faramir, Galadriel, Arwen, Glorfindel, Théoden, Éomer, etc.

Also George R.R. Martin. Many characters (too many to mention) from A Song of Ice and Fire series also match this description. Examples include but are not limited to: Daenerys Targaryen, Rhaegar Targaryen, Jon Snow, Ned Stark, Robb Stark, Sansa Stark, Arya Stark, Bran Stark, Robert Baratheon, Stannis Baratheon, Renly Baratheon, Brienne of Tarth, Tywin Lannister, Cersei Lannister, Jaime Lannister, Tyrion Lannister, Loras Tyrell, Margaery Tyrell, Olenna Tyrell, Joer Mormont, Lyanna Mormont, Jorah Mormont, Barristan Selmy, Bendric Dondarrion, and many, many, many more.

Other good examples are Aslan and the White Witch from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Vito Corleone and Michael Corleone from The Godfather by Mario Puzo, Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl and the Wizard of Oz and Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.

You could begin by selecting an existing character from literature who is most similar to your target character, then model your approach after that author.

  • How ironic that I was attempting to describe Daenerys Targaryen, and that she was in fact the target character behind this question. I didn't study the way she is described in the books because I didn't wish to reproduce what G.R.RM does, but I suppose that's as good a place to start as any.
    – FMB
    Jun 24, 2019 at 2:39

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