What I mean is describing someone being kind, righteous, honest, high-hearted, etc. almost to the uttermost level.

For example, if I wished to point out the great kindness in someone's nature, could I call them "a kindness itself"? Or should it be "an epitome/image of kindness"? Or what should it be? Would the expression I'm asking for, become different if I had in mind negative traits such as meanness, toadyism, mendacity, and so on?


You could say a person is

  • kindness defined
  • kindness embodied
  • kindness incarnate (means the same as 'embodied', suggested by userr2684291)
  • the spitting image of kindness
  • the epitome of kindness
  • kind to a fault (this indicates excess)

The last one is exclusively for positive attributes present in such strength they become negatives, getting in the way of that person's own goals etc. "Honest," "kind," "compassionate," and similar terms are the ones I hear most commonly with that form.

The others can be used for positive or negative traits.

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Using "epitome" works well for this meaning, but is rather elevated in its register.

A simple way to say this is just to use superlatives rhetorically:

John is the kindest guy

Mary is the meanest woman you'll ever meet.

Paul is the most self-righteous, arrogant and pretentious person I know.

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  • +1! I like this answer, especially the third example, because while it definitely shifts the meaning, specifying the comparison set usually makes the statement more accurate. Accuracy can be valuable for credibility/nonfiction conversation, but doesn't matter for fictional storytelling where superlative absolutes might fit better. – WBT Jul 12 '18 at 12:40

One of the words that comes to mind is quintessence. If you don't like that word for some reason, you'll find many synonyms given here. However, a more common way to say this, which really nails it down is incarnate. E.g., evil incarnate, kindness incarnate, devil incarnate, wisdom incarnate, love incarnate. A more proficient speaker will tell you whether it sounds idiomatic with just any noun (which would then mean you could just say righteousness incarnate, honesty incarnate etc., which you probably can).

(transcribed from comment)

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