Words To Describe A Bully – Adjectives & Misconceptions

A bully is a person who uses their power or influence to intimidate or hurt others. They may use physical force, verbal threats, emotional abuse or manipulation to get what they want.

Bullying is the ongoing use of these tactics by an individual or group with the intent to cause harm. It can take many forms including physical, verbal, or written harassment; cyberbullying; social exclusion; gossiping and ridicule; or threats.

Words To Describe A Bully

Synonyms For Bully

Other words that we might use for a ‘bully’, can include :

  • intimidator,
  • tyrant,
  • oppressor,
  • persecutor,
  • tormenter,
  • coercer, and 
  • harasser.

You might find that small children will use words such as ‘meanie’ to explain someone who may be displaying bullying behavior towards them. Alternatively, sometimes people will use ‘bully’ incorrectly when explaining a one-off, disagreement between two parties.  

Words To Describe A Bully

Additional words that can be used to describe a bully include: domineering, pushy, cruel, uncaring, mean-spirited and intimidating.

Bullies often display a combination of the following characteristics:

Aggressive – bullies will use aggressive tactics such as name-calling and threats in order to assert dominance over their victims.

Manipulative – bullies may also employ psychological tactics such as guilt-tripping and gaslighting in order to control or manipulate others into submission.

Domineering – bullying behaviour often involves a show of dominance over their victim, whether it be through physical intimidation or verbal intimidation.

Deceitful – bullies will often lie or twist facts in order to get what they want. They can be so deceitful that others that are often around may not be aware of the behavior going on.

Intimidating – One of the most common traits of a bully is their ability to intimidate others, which can be done through physical presence or verbal threats.

Vengeful – A bully may also act out of revenge for a perceived wrong, or to “teach someone a lesson”.

Selfish – bullies may act for their own benefit, with little regard for the wellbeing of others.

Opportunistic – Bullying behaviour often takes advantage of an opportunity presented to them, such as weakness or vulnerability in another person.

Weak – Despite their outward appearance of strength, bullies are often insecure and weak-minded individuals.

Unpredictable – Bullies can be unpredictable in their behaviour, making it difficult for victims to anticipate or prepare for their attacks.

Insensitive – bullying often involves an insensitivity towards the feelings of others. This can manifest as mocking, belittling or disregard for the victim’s feelings.

Cowardly – bullying behaviour is often done in a cowardly manner, such as an anonymous online attack or attacking someone who is perceived to be weaker than them.

Controlling – bullies may attempt to control others by manipulating their emotions, making decisions for them or taking away their autonomy.

Misguided – bullies may have a misguided idea that their behaviour is in some way “justified” or the “right thing to do”. Often, they are redirecting their own feelings of insecurity, hurt or disappointment. In no way is this excusable behavior.

Narcissistic – Some bullying behaviour is rooted in a sense of entitlement, grandiosity and lack of empathy which is often found in someone who suffers from narcissism.

Egotistical – Bullies often display an inflated view of themselves which may lead them to make unreasonable demands or expectations of others.

Common Misconceptions About Bullies

Despite popular misconceptions, bullies aren’t always:

  • Children: bullying can happen at any age, even among adults.
  • Confident: often, bullies are insecure and mask their insecurities with aggression.
  • Lonely: bullies can also be popular, well-liked people. some bullies may be part of a group, and therefore further enabled.
  • Of Low Intelligence: bullies may have high IQs but lack emotional intelligence or empathy.
  • Unpopular: bullying is often done by those in positions of power or influence, such as the ‘cool’ kids at school or high-level managers in a workplace.
  • Big in size: bullies come in any shape and size, age, gender or interests.
  • Victims: some bullies may have been victims of bullying in the past, or may be passing on modeled behavior, but that doesn’t excuse their actions and behavior.

When Dealing With A Bully:

-Stay calm and try not to get angry or frustrated. Reacting in a hostile manner will only escalate the situation and may make it worse.

-Remain confident and assertive. Bullies often target people who they perceive lacks confidence or is easily intimidated.

-Avoid physical confrontation: no matter how angry you feel, it’s important to avoid physical violence as this can result in serious legal repercussions for both parties involved.

-Remove yourself from the area or from being alone with a bully.

-Seek help: don’t be afraid to reach out to a teacher, parent, manager or trusted adult for help if you or someone you know is the target of a bully.

-Report it: report the behaviour to administrators or employers so they can take action.


It is important to recognize bullying behavior and take steps to prevent and eliminate it. If you or someone you know is being bullied, seek help from a trusted person or agency that specializes in bully prevention.

Remember, no one should ever have to endure bullying behavior – in the home, school, workplace or recreation environment. It is never acceptable under any circumstance.


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