Twelve years after high school and I'm still at the nerd table...
Ostensibly the main character, Leonard is the most normal of the guys by having no outlandish quirks and generally operates as the Only Sane Man. He (and his friends) work at Cal Tech, his field being in Experimental Physics. He has lived with Sheldon since late 2002 and is his best friend, though Sheldon's quirks annoy him to no end. He instantly gained a crush on Penny when she moved into the apartment across the hall and much of the show is about how they both change from interacting with each other.
Abusive Parents: His mother is an iceberg of a woman who has never shown him any affection or approval. It's implied that this gave him emotional connection issues and he doesn't really know how to get close to anyone. He never celebrated a birthday until Penny threw him a surprise party, his own words were "we celebrated accomplishments in my family and being expelled from a birth canal wasn't one of them." In this case, he actually didn't seem to mind lacking that experience, although he was grateful for the gesture from his friends.
Adorkable: This is even lampshaded in a Season 6 episode, when Sheldon's new assistant reveals her crush on him. Penny feels very insecure and angry that Leonard didn't tell her personally, so Leonard comes to apologize by playing his cello in the melody of "Mary Had A Little Lamb."
Leonard:Sorry Alex hit on me, hit on me, hit on me, Sorry Alex hit on me, I had no idea I'm cute. *goofy grin* Penny: (Beat) Damn it, you are cute.
Afraid of Needles: Leonard is so afraid of having to get stitches for his hand that he vomits — and when Howard sees them, so does he.
Angrish: Reduced to this at the end of "The Itchy Brain Simulation".
Better as Friends: His relationship with Penny goes back and forth from this. Even though things are less complicated when they aren't together, there is no denying their attraction to each other.
Blind Without 'Em: When Leonard's glasses are accidentally broken at the movie theatre, his eyesight is so bad that he doesn't have any hope in watching the film, so has to return to his apartment (and risk running into a sick and needy Sheldon) just to get his spare pair.
Broken Bird: The emotional abuse he suffered from his mother (being apathetic to his accomplishments and using him as examples in her psychology books) is the reason behind his insecurities and neediness. It's hinted at repeatedly through the show that part of Penny's attraction to him is recognizing he sometimes just needs a hug and the positive response from her affection. Leonard discovered that truth in the seventh season after questions about his mother's book for a psychology class brought on another depressed stage, with Penny being much more attentive to him afterwards (which he tried to exploit, which ended badly).
Butt Monkey: The show has gone out of its way, particularly in recent seasons, to make his life MORE AND MORE miserable...and it's always Played for Laughs, regardless of Leonard's progressively damaged psyche.
Character Development: He was always friendly and desired to be more social, but he had a hard time making friends and dealing with the opposite sex, the first season especially had him as painfully shy when in awkward situations. Interacting with Penny his already existent skills multiplied to where he is far less likely to put his foot in his mouth in the process. Penny even comments that she is the one who crafted him into becoming decent boyfriend material.
Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: To Sheldon, to the extent that Leonard sometimes appears in Sheldon's dreams to advise him on real life.
Leonard: I'm not here, Sheldon. You're having a guilt-ridden dream. Sheldon: Oh, that's absurd. Leonard: Then why is that gorn sitting there?
Clueless Chick Magnet: He is still stuck in a frame of mind where he is a nervous geek who has to work really hard to get a girl's attention, when the truth is he has actually become far more social and friendly, and that has made him be far more attractive to the opposite sex.
Alex: You're cute, you're funny. Maybe you're getting hit on and you don't even know it. Leonard: Really? Alex (stunned): I'm... pretty sure... Leonard: (Beat) Hahahahaha! I gotta get back to work, thanks for listening. Alex: (disappointed) No problem. Leonard: Hope — hope no girls rip my clothes off on the way! Hahahaha!
Crazy Jealous Guy: Notably, the only time he starts doing the "crazy" part was in a sixth season episode regarding Penny working with a classmate, confronting the guy with an anonymous tip that her boyfriend has "gang" connections. Before this, he could certainly seethe with jealousy at times, but rarely did it manifest in something crazy. In the Thanksgiving episode, he ends up hounding Penny to divorce Zacknote It was a Las Vegas wedding, which Penny believed was fake. Sheldon suggests that it frustrates him because Penny resolutely rejects Leonard's proposals but could easily get married to Zack
Dogged Nice Guy: He could provide a trope image, spending the first two seasons pining after Penny.
Embarrassing First Name: He mentions that he doesn't like the name Leonard because it ends in the syllable "-nerd". Then again, he was off his tits on cannabis cookies at the time, so whether this was a spontaneous expression of a long-held resentment or a drug-induced epiphany that he forgot when he stopped rattling is up in the air. Although he is aware that his name is dorky when sober on some level
Penny: You play the cello? Leonard: Yeah, my parents though that naming me Leonard and putting me in all AP classes wasn't getting me beat up enough.
Frickin' Laser Beams: His specific field of study usually goes towards experiments involving lasers. He got a government grant to experiment on their weapons application but jokes on how far they are from practical use "I can remove hair from 2 miles away!"
Genre Savvy: He has his moments, like when Howard fakes an allergic reaction and then has a real one, Leonard figured it out pretty quickly.
The Glasses Gotta Go: Played with. It's been noted that he has nice eyes/looks more handsome without his glasses, but he's Blind With Out Them and his attempt at using contacts left him with an eye patch.
Heterosexual Life-Partners: While their relationship isn't quite as good as Howard and Raj's, ultimately Leonard and Sheldon are inseparable and both need the other despite the many times they irritate each other.
Hollywood Dateless: At times, though it has been made pretty clear that interacting with Penny has greatly improved his dating life (even outside of Penny herself).
Limited Wardrobe: Tends to wear a khaki jacket with a built in hoodie and "dorky" t-shirts like the recycle symbol or the chemical composition of caffeine, along with flat soled shoes and corduroy pants.
But, he does have two different Star Trek uniforms, dress and casual! Oh, wait....
Meaningful Name: Named for television producer Sheldon Leonard, anthropologist Louis Leakey, and the Hofstadters (Richard, Douglas, etc.).
Nice Guy: Despite his tendency to snark at everything, Leonard's one of the nicest guys out of the main four.
Oblivious to Love: See Clueless Chick Magnet above, Sheldon's assistant, Alex, makes it blatantly obvious that she likes him by listing reasons why other women would like him. He just laughs it off. Later in the episode, he gets a blatantly-flirty text from her and just thinks aloud: "What a friendly girl..."
Official Couple: With Penny, as it is pretty clear they are the main romantic relationship of the series.
Only Sane Man: Easily the most "normal" of the geeks. He even frequently acknowledges what he and his friends are doing is completely insane, although he usually participates anyway. He does have his moments of insanity though such as in "The Itchy Brain Stimulation" which ironically has Sheldon at his sanest.
Overshadowed by Awesome: Unlike Sheldon, he comes from a family of well educated people who apparently are far more famous in their respective fields: an anthropologist father, a psychologist/neurobiologist mother, a medical researcher sister and a lawyer brother.
Alex: Oh hi Dr. Hofstader! Leonard: Hi Alex, but please, call me Leonard. Dr. Hofstader is my father... and my mother... and my sister... and our cat. Although I'm certain Dr. Boots Hofstader's title is honorary.
Parental Substitute: He takes on a fatherly role to Sheldon at times: taking care of his transportation needs, shopping for food and clothing, making sure he goes to bed on time and is often the one he goes to for advice on relationship matters. When he and Penny were dating they served as surrogate parents, when they broke up Sheldon was like a child in a divorce. That led to a lot of Does This Remind You of Anything? dialogue as he and Penny renew their friendship for Sheldon's sake.
Proud to Be a Geek: Goes back and forth on it (see self deprecation) but at the end of the day he's pretty damn proud of his collectibles and intellect.
Puppy-Dog Eyes: Used almost exclusively around Penny, not even when dating other women. Heavily lampshaded in the sixth season opener when Penny wanted to talk about her doubts on their relationship but his undivided attention lead her to skipping the discussion and take him to bed as a distraction.
Smart People Play Chess: He plays and in a Season 5 episode, teaches Penny to play. She beats him in their very first game.
Straight Man: Leonard plays this role, largely for Sheldon's comic lines, and sometimes for funny lines from other characters as well.
Team Dad: Despite his snarkiness Leonard increasingly becomes this throughout the series, especially the "tough but fair" stereotype, particularly towards Sheldon.
Penny: (to Sheldon) Leonard and I are in a relationship, and occasionally we're gonna fight. But no matter what happens between us, we will always love you. Right, Leonard? Leonard: (apprehensive) "Always" is a long time. (they stare at him) Sure, always.
Took a Level in Badass: Leonard was always one of the more normal and friendly of the group, but in the early seasons he was very timid and strove to avoid conflict whenever possible just because he was too much of a pushover to win. In later seasons, his relationship with both Penny and Sheldon became much more even handed as he isn't as easy to manipulate.
Totally Radical: His attempts at being cool usually end up as this, even if the slang is fairly contemporary. His use of phrases like "Later, bro." come across (purposefully) awkward.
Translator Buddy: Leonard spends much of his time translating Sheldon's sayings (and explaining his habits) to Penny and other strangers.
Leonard's roommate. A child prodigy, he graduated from college at the age of 15 from East Texas and specializes in Theoretical Physics. Supposedly the smartest of the guys, but he only ends up dominating arguments and debates (both in science and in nerd trivia) because he's too stubborn to quit and resorts to crazy logic to win. His dedication to science and geekdom is so complete that he has almost no interest in social skills, regular pop culture (current fads, celebrity gossip, etc) or even romance. He thinks he's superior to... well, to everyone.
Accent Relapse: Jim Parson manages to keep his natural Texan drawl under control but there are a few times it slips out, typically done in character with Sheldon as both are from Texas. These relapses are rather cleverly worked into the story — it is heavily implied that Sheldon affects his rather colorless normal accent and that his natural Texan accent creeps back into his speech when he is too angry or distressed to hide it.
Accidental Hero: On multiple occasions. For instance he stopped Leonard from giving up the secrets to the experimental rocket fuel to a spy posing as his date, by barging in and complaining about them trying to sleep together without warning him 24 hours in advance, as there roommate agreement required.
Adorkable: Sheldon Cooper, a man who can somehow make wearing a plaid suit almost sexy, there's something endearingly innocent in his total inability to behave like a normal human being.
Annoying Laugh: Whether it's supposed to be his way of actually laughing, or as a sarcastic chuckle for what us lower forms see as "humor", it's annoying.
Annoying Patient: Sheldon suffers from severe social ineptitude, as well as mild hypochondria, making him an absolutely awful person to have around when he becomes sick.
Anti-Hero: Sheldon is an example of Nominal Hero, he mostly cares about himself and, intentionally or not, he belittles his friends on a regular basis. He's also arrogant, strict, petty and demanding. Despite this he does genuinely care for his friends, and a hybrid of that, lack of malicious intent behind his actions, suffering from severe Ambiguous Disorder, child like traits and multiple Pet the Dog moments stops him becoming dislikeable.
Asexuality: Sheldon is conspicuously uninterested in romance, and is one of those rare TV characters whose asexuality is made more or less explicit in-universe.
Penny: I know this is none of my business, but I just... I have to ask: what's Sheldon's deal? Is it girls...? Guys...? Sock puppets...? Leonard: Honestly, we've been operating under the assumption that he has no deal. Penny: Come on, everyone has a deal. Howard: Not Sheldon. Over the years we've formulated a number of theories about how he might reproduce. I'm an advocate of mitosis.
He and Amy agreed there would be no physical relationship, but over time she developed into wanting one. While he has no interest in it and didn't recognize that helping her bathe and rubbing Vapo Rub on her chest when she's sick was arousing for her, he has admitted to her and others that she influenced him and he considers theirs a deeply intimate relationship even if they aren't physical.
Bad Bad Acting: His "Fun with Flags" podcast has him delivering his lines in a monotone and sounds like a speech synthesiser. He also directs his lines directly at the camera, and his body language is cold and uninviting.
Bad Liar: It's virtually impossible for him to lie on the spot, and keeping secrets drives him insane. But if he works up an overcomplicated backstory to the lie then he can manage it okay, but that requires some prep work including falsifying evidence and sometimes a facebook profile. His trouble is largely knowing when to lie and the significance of lying — for instance, his intricate preparations would actually be rather good lies for, say, a government intelligence agency...unfortunately, in terms of deflecting attention from a white lie Leonard told to avoid having to watch Penny sing, it was completely over-designed for the situation at hand. He seems to overcome this, as he manages to make up a believable lie on the spot towards Amy in "The Raiders Minimization".
Don't mention Wil Wheaton around Sheldon, unless you want a "WHEEEEEAAAATOOOOOONNN!" that would make Shatner proud. (They made up at the end of "The Russian Rocket Reaction" and are now good friends — according to Sheldon, anyways). Unfortunately, Brent Spiner then inadvertently replaces Wil Wheaton on Sheldon's Mortal Enemy list.
Goofy. This is a reference to a 1 panel webcomic strip known as "It's Goofy Time". Sheldon's dialogue is a direct copy of the non-goofy character from it.
A minor example, but only his mother and sister are allowed to call him "Shelly". Also, only his "Meemaw" is allowed to call him "Moon Pie."
Amy is a new one — Sheldon actually physically assaulted Leonard (via a karate chop to the neck), when he mistakenly believed that Leonard had been up to something with her.
Beta Couple: Although his relationship with Amy is a complex one, it is significantly more stable then Leonard/Penny.
Big Damn Kiss: In the middle of an annoyed rant about romance, the normally very asexual Sheldon actually initiates a kiss with Amy in "The Locomotive Manipulation." And he liked it.
Big Ego, Hidden Depths: Sheldon may qualify as many of his breakdowns show that underneath his ego, he is in many ways still just a little kid who doesn't understand the world and hasn't recovered from multiple traumatic incidents that occurred during his childhood, he does genuinely care about his friends and several episodes have implied that his ego stems from some sort of coping mechanism (he tries justifies that his childhood bullies hurt him cause they were jealous of him).
Birthday Hater: Sheldon has some mental scars from past birthdays relating to his general aversion to socialization.
The Bore: Frequently. His flag podcast is incredibly bland and colorless, and he often railroads the conversation onto topics that only he finds interesting (such as railroads). Sheldon, being the way he is, takes the disinterest as signs of his audience's intellectual inferiority.
Breakout Character: The early episodes followed Leonard by default. Since then, the focus has shifted to Sheldon. (Though Leonard's plot with Penny is still the primary plot to follow.)
Break the Haughty: His inflated sense of entitlement and superiority often end up putting him through a thorough, and often well-deserved, Humiliation Conga. Subverted in that he never loses his arrogance, no matter how hard he may have been humiliated.
He actually faints when Dr. Stephen Hawkings points out a small mathematical error in the paper Sheldon gave him.
He's certainly very smart and works very hard on things, but has actually accomplished very little, especially compared to Raj and Howard, who have both been at the centre of major stories about their accomplishments. It may be a result of Informed Ability, seeing as his offscreen resume is fairly impressive.note He has won numerous accolades such as the Chancellor's Award, the Stevenson Award (at fifteen!), received an NSF grant, and was invited to present his findings on Bose-Einstein condensates. Also, of all the CalTech employees on the show (i.e, everyone except Penny and Bernadette), he is furthest up the career ladder — his job title is Senior Theoretical Particle Physicist, implying that he is the highest-ranked or at least a highly-ranked such scientist on the faculty. Furthermore, in The Bat Jar Conjecture, he was able to match the combined talents of Leonard, Raj, Howard and Leslie Winkle on his own. If he had just been able to put aside his pride, he would have won.
Averted in Season 7. In "The Romance Resonance", he discovers how to synthesize a new heavy element, it doesn't get him mainstream fame but it quickly becomes a big buzz in the scientific community to the point the cafeteria applauded him. Unfortunately, it turns out that he stumbled across the discovery by accident after misreading a chart and making a mathematical error. And then it comes out that the team that tested his hypothesis faked their results, so he didn't "discover" anything after all.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Averted. It's made clear that, however smart he may be, he's nowhere near as valuable or talented as he thinks and he's been fired with little issue at least once, although comments from President Siebert seem to suggest that there are at least some people on the university board who feel he plays this trope straight.
Brutal Honesty: Due to his problems with lying, Sheldon normally tells the truth in the most brutal way possible, and then won't realise why they're offended.
Butt Monkey: Often on the receiving end of a lot of humiliation and punishment, not that he doesn't bring it on himself, though.
Sheldon: Around what time in the morning do you have a bowel movement? Leonard: Er...whenever I need to? Sheldon:*sigh* I'm sorry, I'm not renting this room out to hippies. Leonard: Okay, okay, around 8:00. Sheldon: Hmm, I can't do that, is 7:30 okay? Leonard: Yeah, okay, whatever!
Cannot Tell a Lie: Whenever he tries to lie, he exhibits incredibly obvious nervous facial tics.
Can't Hold His Liquor: He almost never drinks casually but it doesn't take much for him to lose it, once getting tipsy after only using tequila as mouthwash. In addition there has been a few times he was unaware of what he was drinking because it was spiked. In Season 7, he begins drinking more commonly at some social events, although he is still not particularly interested in doing so, nor does he seem to enjoy it that much. Never the less his tolerance seems to have increased with his change.
Celibate Hero: As far as being openly contemptuous of any kind of sexual desire.
Celibate Eccentric Genius: At least, before Amy Farrah Fowler came along. Even his dynamic with Amy isn't particularly conventionally romantic.
Character Development: Sheldon hanging out with Penny and the gang leads him to become more and more human. Three particular Season 5 episodes involve him pushing out his personal boundaries, discovering that his rigid scheduling to regulate his life doesn't need to be so inflexible and his life won't collapse if he does things a little differently now and then. Shortly into his relationship with Amy, he was reluctant to keep to his end of the agreements in the Relationship Agreement. In a later episode, when Amy is sick, after some initial hesitation, he agrees to uphold the agreement and take care of her, and does go vigilantly. During Season 6, he notes that he has become more comfortable with physical contact, and admits that someday, perhaps, he and Amy might be physically intimate. In Season 7, he seems noticeably calmer, slyer, and quicker than before.
Characterization Marches On: Considering the sheer number of quirks he acquired after the first few episodes, it's somewhat of a shock to see him in the early stages. Sheldon wasn't quite as socially inept or uptight in earlier episodes and may not even have been established as asexual yet. He was still an arrogant jerk, but more of a friend ribbing another instead of having a huge ego mixed with an Ambiguous Disorder. As such:
Asexuality: He casually refers to Penny being beautiful and immediately recognizes Leonard is attracted to her, seems to (mildly) compete for her attention and when they visit a sperm bank, Leonard makes an off-hand comment that Sheldon is a "semi-pro," the implications in such a context should be obvious.
Social Skills: He advises Leonard that discussing bowel movements isn't appropriate when he invites Penny to lunch. As early as the second episode it becomes a Running Gag Sheldon rarely understands sarcasm. In the first episode, nearly all of his jokes are sarcastic quips at Leonard's expense. In later episodes, it becomes a challenge to get Sheldon to admit that he's wrong, regardless of whatever outrageous thing he's done or said. In the second episode, although he still believes that cleaning Penny's apartment without her permission was the right thing to do, he offers a sincere apology to her face after some prodding by Leonard.
Language: His Catch Phrase "Bazinga" did not show up until the late second season. He was also not the first person to use "coitus" as Spock Speak for sex (that was actually Howard), and in fact simply used the word sex. While he didn't have a potty mouth, he did use swear words rather judiciously a few times ("Oh gravity, thou art a heartless bitch."), in later seasons he would either censor himself ("I wanted to avoid offending the ho's"), others ("Cockamane?" "I felt uncomfortable with the word Leonard used") or use old fashioned terms ("ninny").
Child Prodigy: While he definitely was, attending college at 12 and getting his first of two Ph.Ds at age 16, it's possible he's a deconstruction of the concept. His intelligence vastly alienated him from his family, gave him a big ego, made him highly neurotic and socially inept, and though it may or may not be related to his childhood brilliance he's also something of a man-child. He has a journal record of his attempts at potty-training, from the journal itself "April 18 — This is humiliating, what was wrong with diapers?"
Chosen Conception Partner: To Amy, who propositions him for sex under the explanation that it's their duty to sire future geniuses.
Clueless Chick Magnet: Sheldon has gained not one, but two devoted groupies. As well, he ignores a girl who actually goes into his room and sits on his bed, and unwittingly manages to pick up a gay man. After Sheldon ends up charming Raj's date (a successful dentist), causing her to leave for the date with him instead, he then completely fails to understand why he would see her again.
Sheldon: Why would I see her again? I have a dentist. "
The Comically Serious: In fact, it's pretty much his entire shtick (aside from neurosis, passive-aggressiveness and love of trains.)
Commitment Issues: Sheldon struggles with committing to Amy and then from there moving forward in their relationship. The issue stems from having previously thought of himself as a Celibate Eccentric Genius who is above time wasting romantic notions, and having an aversion to change. In one episode, both Leonard and Amy decide to move too fast for their partners and put moving in on the table. Sheldon and Penny are forced to confide their hesitations about it to each other.
Control Freak: He regulates when his roommate can use the bathroom. (8:20am, since you ask).
Cultural Rebel: He's pretty far removed from the stereotypical Texan he was raised to be. He also affects an accent he perceives to more educated, slipping back into his native Texan drawl when very angry or distressed.
Cuteness Proximity: Falls into this when he started out naming the plethora of cats after scientists, until he got to Zazzles.
Sheldon: I was going to name him Hermann von Helmholtz, but he's so... Zazzy.
Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Sheldon's eidetic memory would make him very successful in a variety of conventional career fields, and in one episode we see he's very courteous and helpful when he takes it upon himself to aid customers at a computer store. Too bad he's so arrogant he sees such fields as beneath him and is dedicated to theoretical physics.
Deadpan Snarker: Emphasis on the deadpan. Insofar as Sheldon understands sarcasm, of course.
Leonard: Sheldon, how could you sit there and let [Howard and Raj] watch my date with Penny? Sheldon: They were clever, Leonard. They took advantage of my complete lack of interest in what they were doing.
Ditzy Genius: He's a brilliant scientist, but is absolutely, painfully clueless in almost every other aspect of life.
Dysfunctional Family: He has several bad memories of his parents fighting and that is reflected in some present events (he returns to being 10 when Leonard and Penny fight). It is commonly implied he grew up in a very unstable home. He also commonly implies or even outright states on occasion that his father was a severe alcoholic. He had a very poor and somewhat abusive relationship with both his siblings. There are some other things where he considered his parents to be Abusive Parents but they were just trying to treat him like a normal child (he wanted a titanium centrifuge for his birthday, they gave him a motorized dirtbike).
Evil Genius: Sheldon occasionally invokes this on purpose. Leonard has already noted that Sheldon's "one lab accident away from becoming a super villain".
Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Sheldon's mom is the only one who can override his irrational behavior. He also seems quite devoted to his grandmother, or "Meemaw", as he calls her.
The Finicky One: He has a thing for making people sign written agreements, is something of a germaphobe and is very picky about where he sits.
Foil: Primarily for Leonard, but can be this for Raj and Howard. Many of his nerdy interests and behavior can be seen as somewhat of an extreme version of the other three. While nowhere near as intolerable as Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, and Howard do show a sense of neediness that can irritate other characters.
For Science!: The only reason he gives for putting ground-up moths into Leonard's food, claiming it was to determine at what concentration food begins to start tasting "mothy".
For Want of a Nail: Discussed in "The Cooper Extraction", where we see that Leonard not moving in with Sheldon meant he would've moved in with Raj and not cared about meeting a woman, letting himself go. Without Sheldon, Leonard wouldn't have had a foil to play his awkwardness off of and Penny would've turned him down from the get-go. Amy would've remained a social outcast, miserable and desperately seeking friends. No Leonard and Penny means that Bernadette never gets set up with Howard, who remains with his mother and eventually goes "Psycho" on her. Lastly, without Leonard in the picture to circumvent her theorized high sex drive, Penny would've made many advances on Sheldon, likely have given up, then end up settling for a idiot like Zack.
Freak Out: The sheer quantity of changes he experiences in Season 7 is too much for him to handle. They include his new field of work, Leonard and Penny getting engaged, the possibility of Leonard moving out, Stuart's comic book store burned to the ground, him getting more intimate with Amy, the death of Professor Proton and so on...Sheldon goes beyond his breaking point and leaves on a train to straighten his ideas.
The Friend Nobody Likes: So much that the guys kick him off the team for the Physics Bowl in "The Bat Jar Conjecture". And when Sheldon wants to accept an offer to go on an arctic expedition, they are excited about being Sheldon-free for three months. Penny once asks exactly how got any friends in the first place and Howard answers that they liked Leonard... In the episode where Leonard, Raj and Howard are on a camping trip:
Leonard: Too bad Sheldon couldn't come with us. Raj: Yeah, it's just not the same without him. (Silence for a second and then the three guys start laughing).
Geek Physiques: He was described by another character as looking like a praying mantis. The other three geeks also have skinny physiques. It's just that Sheldon's is more pronounced due to being a head taller than the other three.
Season 5 shows that Sheldon has grown very possessive of Amy, if nothing else. When Leonard states that he and Amy had quite a fun time together at a wedding party and playfully threw in sexual innuendo about this "fun time", Sheldon's reaction? A karate chop to Leonard's neck and then:
Leonard: Why did you do that? Sheldon: To send a message: She's not for you. Leonard: What? Sheldon: Not! For you!
Later when Amy begins to date Stuart, Sheldon "officially" upgrades the status of their relationship to boyfriend and girlfriend.
The Grinch: Sheldon hates Christmas, claiming it's a knockoff of the pagan celebration of Saturnalia, bemoaning being forced to participate by his zealously religious mother as a child, etc., all to the annoyance of Leonard, who just wants some Christmas cheer because he was forced to write papers by his family on Christmas. It all comes to a head during a Christmas themed game of Dungeons & Dragons where Sheldon leaves Santa (whom they were supposed to be saving) to die, ruining the game and Christmas spirit for all involved. He declares that the real reason he hates Christmas is that Santa never granted him his wish of bringing his "Pop-Pop" (grandfather, and the only family member to encourage his interest in science) back as a kid.
Hard On Soft Science: Exaggerated with him to the point of absurdity. Not only does he regard the social sciences as "largely hokum" (although despite this, he deeply respects Leonard's psychologist mother, however, she's also a neuroscientist), but he also speaks disparagingly of other hard sciences, referring to the geology department as "the dirt people" and having a falling out with Leslie Winkle because she favored supergravity theory over superstring theory. The only non-scientific discipline he has not expressed open contempt for is the law, probably due to his mania with rules.
"I have never said that you [Howard] are not good at what you do. It's just that what you do [Engineering] is not worth doing."
Hates Being Touched: He hates shaking hands, hugging,... At least partially due to germophobia. In later seasons, he gets a bit better.
"It's not a touch phobia, it's a germ phobia. If you'd like to go put on a pair of latex gloves, I'll let you check me for a hernia. "
Hates Small Talk: It's not that he hates small talk; it's that his idea of small talk consists of advanced physics theory, comic books and Star Trek canon, and obscure factoids he finds fascinating (even if no one else does). Things such as gossip, sports or personal relationships, he couldn't care less about.
When he has to give a speech, Penny takes him out to buy a new outfit. Sheldon emerges from the changing room wearing a very nice black suit—cue Jaw Drop from Penny and whistles and hoots from the audience. Sheldon, being Sheldon, however, finds the outfit absurd.
In Season 6, when Penny gives him a new haircut, Amy is shocked when she sees it and insists that Penny change him back — because she's worried he might attract other women. "I don't want him walking around like sex on a stick!" (Sheldon agrees. "She's right. I'm too hot.")
Henpecked Boyfriend: After a fight with Amy, he has decided to be one to avoid major fights in the future. So when Amy tells Levar Burton he's a worse actor than Wil Wheaton Sheldon tells the former while he may not actually think so, he must agree with Amy. Levar understands completely. This does not normally occur, as he is mostly the dominant one in there relationship.
Heroic Sacrifice: Not a lethal one, but during a paintball war his comrades (Leonard, Howard, and Raj) have no enthusiasm due to prior events, and don't really want to fight. Sheldon proceeds to walk outside, into the open, and take several shots to motivate them into fighting, resulting in victory. Complete with slow-motion and a Platoon-style"death".
Hidden Depths: Sheldon proves to be surprisingly understanding and helpful when hearing about his friends' love problems. He also knows a lot about football, though it's only because his father always made him watch the games as a child, rather than out of his own interest; plus he grew up in Texas, where he mentions that football is inescapable there. Also thanks to his father he is apparently a crack shot with both a bow and a gun. Due to his upbringing, he is also a skilled ballroom dancer and archer. At times, he seems to know more than the other guys about proper social interaction, but his knowledge is shallow and he's very poor at applying it to real-life situations.
Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Sheldon is revealed to have been so traumatized by his parents' constant fighting when he was a child that he is unable to be around people arguing. He goes so far as to run away from his apartment when roommate Leonard won't stop arguing with his girlfriend. He relates multiple incidents of being bullied (sometimes by his own siblings) that fit the trope, such as discovering string theory, due to being beaten round the head with a book about it.
Honor Before Reason: Will often avoid taking the easy way out of things, though this usually leaves him worse off than before.
Hypocritical Humor: Often accuses Leonard of being a narcissist and wanting to make everything about him, without a hint of irony.
Informed Ability: Although the other scientists do have some level of respect for his abilities (Leonard at one point calling him "one of the greatest minds of the 21st century") Sheldon is by far the most fervent admirer of his own intellect, but he frequently makes mistakes (especially in non-scientific fields, sometimes even then) and besides being given an award by the University all his accomplishments are second-hand information. Lampshaded by President Siebert, "The board tells me he has a beautiful mind, but I just think he's bananas."
Innocent Bigot: Occasionally says things that may be considered offensive without realization.
Innocent Blue Eyes: He has large, expressive blue eyes. They may or may not be a physical manifestation of how clueless he is when it comes to social interaction, despite his intellectual brilliance.
Innocently Insensitive: Even when he's trying not to be an Insufferable Genius (usually at the request of one of the other guys), he has a problem of insulting people anyway without realizing it. It's debatable whether or not he realizes how insufferable he really is. Much of his innocent insensitivity stems less from his arrogance and overbearing manner than his total ignorance of social conventions. For example, in one conversation with Penny, he asks her where she currently is on her menstrual cycle. He doesn't understand why it's inappropriate.
Insane Troll Logic: If he cannot have his way or if he manages to fail at an activity then he will often dig deep to find some way to justify why he didn't succeed. After failing at learning how to drive he decided he was an evolved form of humanity that was smarter but incapable of driving properly. A lot of his behavioral traits subvert how other quirky characters are depicted in other media. He isn't bizarre for the sake of being bizarre, but has a lot of fairly sound (even if Super OCD) reasoning behind his actions. His spot on the couch comes with a list of reasons why it is his spot, from balanced airflow in the room to allowing maximum interaction with guests (with minimal head turning) while still allowing a proper view of the TV without distorting the image.
Insistent Terminology: He is not a rocket scientist. He's a theoretical physicist! Also, he takes great pains to point out that his team t-shirt spells "The Wesley Crushers" (Those Who Crush Wesley) and not "The Wesley Crushers" (Multiple People Named Wesley Crusher). Dr. Sheldon Cooper would also have you know that he's not crazy; his mother had him tested. She later confirms this (...though she should have followed-up with that specialist in Houston). He also does not play "pranks"; he subjects people to his classic pranks. He also prefers it when accurate terms are used. One of the more notable things he prefers is to refer to sexual intercourse as 'coitus', probably to separate it from sex as in 'male or female'..
Insufferable Genius: He's that page's image for a very good reason. Though it's been shown repeatedly that it isn't impossible to outsmart him or even point out mistakes in his work, it's a matter of being stubborn enough to fight him through the insufferable part (Stephen Hawking notwithstanding).
It's All About Me: Though he is able to show concern and attention for his friends on occasion, Sheldon's default attitude is wildly egocentric, taking the view of "the world revolves around me" as an axiom.
Leonard: Sheldon, not everything is about you. Sheldon: <Pause> I don't follow you.
"He doesn't understand when he's being mean because that part of his brain is getting a wedgie from the rest of his brain."
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He's insufferable most of the time, but he shows concern and attention for his friends in his own ways, can offer genuinely helpful advice on their problems if he's in the right mood, he's never actively malevolent to them beyond verbal jabs, and is hurt if they slight him in some way. On the other hand, his perspective on social interactions are skewed, so he doesn't understand when he does something offensive or inappropriate, he's constantly flaunting what he considers his superior intellect, and while he can offer helpful advice on a problem at times, he's just as liable to interrupt their explanation of said problem to note he doesn't care. The Heart Of Gold is there, but it's deep down under a lot of arrogance and an Ambiguous Disorder.
Kind Hearted Cat Lover: When he and Amy disagree over the superiority of physics vis-a-vis neurobiology, they terminate their friendship.note Sheldon's mother manages to bring them back together in the end, thanks to a little judicious reverse psychology. He fills the void left by her absence by adopting a plethora of cats. His mother also sings him his sick song, "Soft Kitty" whenever he's sick, and so does Penny. Sheldon even sings it to her at one point.
Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Sheldon tends to lapse into this when he veers away from physics and into the life sciences. Sheldon acts like he knows United States history when he doesn't. He tries to convince Leonard that he should be a history professor instead of a physicist by testing whether Leonard knows that slavery in the United States ended in 1863. It didn't. At the Renaissance Fair, when he complains about the historical inaccuracies, but doesn't realize Leonard's knight costume is at least 200 years out of date. His "defense" to a charge of running a red light in "The Excelsior Acquisition" shows he knows absolutely nothing about the law, as well. On similar lines, his beloved Roommate Agreement is full of loopholes, and doesn't stand up to the scrutiny of a legal professional. Many of his beloved factoids, when outside the sciences, are actually common misconceptions: The Romans did not sow over Carthage with salt, for instance, as any archaeology undergrad could have told him. However this is often a case of Depending on the Writer, sometimes he is presented as being as smart as he thinks he is (or at least knowledgeable in a broad range of area's). The Rule (following the Rule of Funny) often seems to be that he only slips into this whenever it would actually benefit him not to.
Lack of Empathy: Subverted Although he often comes across as this Sheldon is perfectly capable of feeling empathy and can even be quite caring on occasion. Its just he's very bad at judging when he should be empathetic, and normally requires it being explained to him in a way he can understand before he is.
Limited Wardrobe: Almost always wears short sleeved t-shirts with a longer shirt underneath, rolled up to the elbows. Superhero t-shirts are the most common, Green Lantern (or a symbol of one of the other Lantern Corps) and The Flash especially. This leads to a rather amusing variation of Characterization Marches On, as in one early episode he follows the general pattern, but it's far removed from what he was later known for.note Interestingly enough, the color combination is that of classic Silver Age Lex Luthor's power armor, so maybe they wen't for the "evil genius" look.
Little Known Facts: Loves bringing them up in conversation, sometimes to benefit himself such as why he should have the last dumpling, because in Tia culture its reserved for the most valued member of the group.
Mad Scientist: Has about as many shades as you can get while still being thoroughly grounded in reality. A brief list of examples is his willingness to try electric shocks to modify Penny's behavior by negative reinforcement, the government monitors his computer activities due to his efforts to hack their systems, as a child he attempted to build a "death ray" and to create a griffon by cross-breeding lions and eagles, and he occasionally makes references to societal reforms he plans to implement when "[he] comes to power". Lampshaded by Leonard, who notes Sheldon is "one lab accident away from becoming a supervillain."
Man Child: While all the characters indulge themselves in childish things, Sheldon insists that someone take care of him the way his mother would when he's sick (or even just homesick), locks himself in his bedroom where no one else is allowed when he's furious, curls up into a crying ball of sad on his bed when he's embarrassed, runs away from home when he's upset, is practically traumatized by the sound of people arguingnote Although this one may be perfectly justified, as his parents often got into arguments when he was a child and it is also implied that a lot of the arguments were exceedingly violent (he mentioned that his father would start throwing plates and shattering them in the kitchen, and that his mom planned to place glass shards in his father's meatloaf), even when they said to Sheldon that they stopped fighting, and is stubborn and petty beyond all reason. The only thing on this planet that can force him to behave rationally when he's angry or depressed is an order from his mother, who Lenard calls "Sheldon's Kryptonite". He also responds positively to being patronized by Penny, especially if he gets a toy robot and a comic book out of it. Lampshaded by Bernadette at one point, after she successfully got him to go to bed by first reasoning with him about the effects of lack of sleep, and then simply treating him like an overgrown child and sending him to bed.
Manipulative Bastard: Although failing on most of his attempts in the first few seasons, starting Season 6 and appearing more commonly in Season 7, Sheldon begins to get more successful at his attempts to manipulate others, learning how to play of there weaknesses to his advantage.
Meaningful Name: Named for television producer Sheldon Leonard and possibly for physics Nobel Laureate Leon N. Cooper.
Momma's Boy: His mother still treats him like a child and is the only person who can tell him what to do.
Narcissist: The most fervent admirer of his own genius.
Neat Freak: He broke into Penny's apartment to clean, because being that close to mess made him have trouble sleeping.
Never My Fault: Which makes those rare occasions (see Pet the Dog below) when he does admit his own fault even more significant, such as when he accidentally cost Howard his security clearance, leading to his career suffering a serious setback.
No Sense of Humor: Zigzagged. Sheldon has a sense of humor, but it's so separate from everybody else (except for Amy) that he doesn't get most jokes and most people don't get his. And he always explains his jokes.
No Social Skills: To the point where Sheldon seems to consider "accepted social protocol" more like inviolable laws he must obey, rather than doing nice things simply because he's trying to be pleasant. Lampshaded a few times by Penny.
Not-So-Harmless Villain: Although rarely a true villain, when ever he does take an antagonistic role its normally either as a petty prankster seeking revenge or a egomaniac control freak winning to others when he doesn't get his way. However in "The Itchy Brain Simulation" he proves he when he's had time to plan he can be quite impressive. He successful manipulates his own best friend into simulating OCD, and torturing himself, all while barely lifting a finger.
OOC Is Serious Business: The few times he deviates from specific idiosyncrasies is treated as exceptionally odd and results in some big reactions from the characters, notably how Penny started crying when Sheldon gave her a hug for the Leonard Nimoy Napkin Christmas gift.
Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Sheldon, a string theorist who on his days off also dabbles in, for example, genetic engineering, and who purportedly built a nuclear reactor and a "death ray" as a child, not to mention his extensive knowledge on the Social Sciences (History, Political Science and Flags) as well as basic Notary Law (he's the principal author of the Roommate Agreement with Leonard and the Relationship Agreement with Amy). That being said though, it depends of the writer, as we've also seen Sheldon unable to ascertain how to open a toolbox and much of his supposed knowledge of otherfields is either inaccurate or flat out wrong.
Out-of-Character Moment: His obsession with cleanliness and was evident early on, with him cleaning Penny's apartment himself while she slept and later panicking when he hears she came from a family gathering where they were sick. In the Season 1 episode "The Loobenfeld Decay", he places a bag of chicken in a take-out container into an outside bin, then recovers it a few minutes later with nothing more than a quick blow. It certainly stands out as an anomaly with his regular behavior.
Pet the Dog: He's typically very selfish and insufferable and frequently comments on how much he hates social interaction even with his closest friends. But there are a few rare moments where he actually uses his selfish behavior as a smokescreen to hide that he's actually concerned and/or happy for his friends, but doesn't want to admit that right out. For instance, he discovered through Amy that Penny had some doubts about her relationship with Leonard. So he confronts her late at night and tries talking Leonard up, saying that he just wants to keep the status quo for his own sake. As the conversation went on, he eventually asked with sincerity, "Please don't hurt my friend."
Polar Opposite Twins: With Missy. Sheldon is wildly egocentric, only interacts with others when forced to and tends to look down on anyone who isn't as smart as he perceives himself to be. Missy is out-going, friendly, level-headed and sociable.
Pride: A lot of the problems he encounters could be avoided if he wasn't so arrogant and proud. A good example is "The Excelsior Acquisition", where he tries to fight a traffic violation on principle when a scene just before he finds out about his summons establishes he has several thousand dollars in uncashed paychecks.
Proud to Be a Geek: Sheldon simply refuses to be anything but a geek and unlike his friends (mostly Leonard) he isn't embarrassed at all by his geekiness.
Rail Enthusiast: A fan of model railways, he even wears his own pretend-Engineer's hat. This would be rather sweet if he didn't neglect Amy for it, something which visibly offended her.
Rules Lawyer: Provided they're either rules he drafted himself or those governing the playing of Tabletop Games. As Priya and "The Excelsior Acquisition" showed, he doesn't have a very good handle on the actual law. Though its likely his arrogance plays apart in this he was able to match her on his second try.
Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training: Sheldon is such a Child Prodigy, that he entered college at age 11 and graduated with honours at 14. He has devoted pretty much his entire life to research since then, and this may have contributed to his lack of rudimentary social skills (such as not gloating at a judge) and his overall inability to deal with the mundane world (germophobia for instance).
Sarcasm-Blind: Zig-Zagged. He understands the concept of sarcasm and can use it himself, but almost never picks it up when it's about him. He gets lucky once and a while, but it seems like guess work on his part.
Single-Target Sexuality: Amy is the ONLY person he has ever expressed romantic feelings towards. While other women (and men) have shown some form of attraction to him the most he ever reciprocates is an appreciation that they appreciate him. Even though a sexual relationship is still repulsive to him, he confessed to Amy that the two of them is the most intimate relationship he has ever had.
Small Name, Big Ego: Played With check "Know-Nothing Know-It-All". He believes himself to be multi-talented when his only real skill is in theoretical physics but this does fall in to Depending on the Writer as he sometimes genuinely is near to as smart as he believes he is and has shown in-depth knowledge of other subjects and his friends do on occasion acknowledge that he really is the smartest of them. He's also very unaware of how much people dislike him and can't understand why they wouldn't want to spend time with him. But of his friends he is the most successful (being the Senior Theoretical Physicist at Caltech) and is apparently held in high regard by the physics community. Never the less its made very clear that he doesn't live up to his opinion of himself.
Smart People Play Chess: He and Leonard play three-dimensional chess! He also created 3-man chess, complete with new pieces. Unlike many of his socializing-related projects, his new rules are seemingly enjoyable and not over-complicated.
Smug Snake: Very smug about his genius-level intelligence. He sometimes talks about himself as a new and improved human. Ironically he can often live up to his claims, its purely down to his ego that he fails.
Sheldon: People of Sheldonopolis, this is your Mayor! Follow me and I will lead you to safety. If your children cannot run, leave them behind!
Southern-Fried Genius: Subverted for the most part. Despite hailing from Texas, he displays none of the traits that are typically associated with the "redneck" aspect of the trope. This is apparently a conscious decision as it shows up when he's very upset.
Sheldon: Well, I'm polymerized tree sap and you're an inorganic adhesive, so whatever verbal projectile you launch in my direction is reflected off of me, returns on its original trajectory and adheres to you.
Spoiled Brat: Sheldon tends to embody this trope, often getting whatever he wants, how and when he wants it, no matter how unreasonable, merely by being extremely difficult. Ironically, his family seem to be the only people not enabling him.
Trekkie: Is a colossal star trek fan, especially TOS and TNG.
Troll: He's often guilty of this behavior, as demonstrated by most of his "Classic Pranks", his heckling of both Leonard and Brian Greene's lectures and when his continual swiping of the One Ring from Leonard.
Howard: You're not helping! Sheldon: I'm not trying to help! *Smirks*
Twitchy Eye: Gets a very prominent one when he either doesn't know something, or the others don't let him finish explaining something.
TV Genius: This is a huge part of the sitcom's premise. Leonard, Raj and Howard are also extremely intelligent, but no where near as TV Genius as Sheldon. To reiterate, in a show where five of the seven main characters have at least one doctorate (Penny has a high school diploma, while Howard only has a masters) and most of the recurring characters are university professors or otherwise in highly technical fields, Sheldon is universally regarded as bizarre. Not incomprehensively so, however, as he literally came with a manual. That he himself wrote in PDF format and hands out to new friends.
Uncle Pennybags: Surprisingly — Sheldon's lifestyle is very low-budget and he saves his money, to the point he feels perfectly comfortable giving Penny enough money to both pay her rent and fix her car when it breaks down. Despite her assumption that Sheldon's obsessive tendencies would lead him to hound her, it turns out that he's incredibly lax when it comes to lending his money. He honestly doesn't care when it's paid back, as long as it eventually is.
Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Sheldon's self-centered egotism and condescending behavior is the source of conflict for any given episode, even just by being sick and asking for help (his obnoxious neediness at that stage is dreaded by everyone).
Virtue Is Weakness: He actively believes that being compassionate and open-minded is a weakness, to the point that he (unsuccessfully) attempted to break up with Amy when he realized her effect on his personality.
Sheldon: Those are traits associated with a psychopath. Leonard: Are you worried about me killing you in your sleep? Sheldon: No, I imagine if you were going to do so, you would have done it years ago.
Whoopi Epiphany Speech: Played with. While such a speech is usually one of great wisdom made by someone who isn't all that educated or book smart, it can't be said that Sheldon is either of those things. But he is very socially inept. So it comes as a surprise at times when Sheldon has rare gems of social wisdom (albeit wrapped in Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness) that give Leonard new insights he couldn't see before.
Played by Kaley Cuoco
You know where I was all afternoon? Auditioning with 50 other blondes for an anti-depressant commercial... They said I was too perky...
Nebraska-born neighbor of Leonard and Sheldon, moved there in the pilot. She aspires to be an actress, but to pay the bills she works as a waitress at the Cheesecake Factory. Initially friendly but distant to the guys, she grew to become One of the Boys. She has an slightly below average intelligence which is overshadowed by being around these super-geniuses, but displays common sense and social awareness that the others almost completely lack. Her relationship with both Leonard and Sheldon opened her up to the concept of higher thinking and she has found some difficulty going back to keeping "regular" people as company.
Absolute Cleavage: Most of her tops plunge right into this, especially in the earlier seasons. Also of note, her "secret weapon" dress.
The Alcoholic: The hardest drinking member of the cast. Typically manifests with her finishing the bottle while everyone else is on their first glass, it can be inferred that she is accustomed to heavier drinking company and so when with a bunch of recreational drinkers she stands out more.
All Girls Want Bad Boys: Has a bad case of this. Notably, she identifies the qualities she likes in men as "macho, handsome, success, money", not necessarily "badness." When hanging out with Leonard as Just Friends, he realized he didn't have to conform to what she wanted and became assertive about their activity leading to some obnoxious behavior. She later admitted that even though things got out of hand she liked seeing him take charge for once.
All Women Love Shoes: She has a large collection of shoes, despite being in a poor financial situation.
Alpha Bitch: Being a gorgeous young woman, it shows up every so often, mostly involving her relationship with Bernadette and Amy. In one episode, she realized she was a high school bully and was sorry about it.
The Atoner: The plot point for a Season 5 episode. She attempts to put things right with those she hurt in her high school days. None of them want to listen. In Season 7, she realized that Leonard was always the one to do romantic gestures and the only thing she offered in return was sex. She took the time to plan out a special evening in return.
Bad Bad Acting: Zig-zagged, along with Hollywood Tone-Deaf. We see her in a hemorrhoid commercial and an unreleased movie from before she met the guys and her acting is shown to be pretty stiff and unnatural, but it is meant to reflect on the quality of the product rather than her talents as an actress. But we see her as Blanche in a student production of A Streetcar Named Desire and she performs the role well (considering we only see a snippet, if she was more intense it would look odd in context), and was praised for being very natural and comfortable on Sheldon's web series.
One thing that definitely sets her off, especially hanging around these geniuses, is being implied that she is stupid.
She's not very tolerant of Howard's sleazy comments, either.
She gets very angry when she sees someone hurting her friends.
Better as Friends: She feels that things are easier with Leonard as friends rather than as a couple, though their attraction to each other hasn't ever wavered. They got together early Season 3 and broke up towards the end. Nearly two seasons later, they decided to try experimenting being together again using a beta test, given that they never stopped caring for each other.
Character Development: In the first season, she was friendly with the group but didn't really hang out with them much. By the second season, she started to consider them to be some of her best friends and was even retaining some of the scientific principles the others would explain to her. After getting together with Leonard and later breaking up, she found that she couldn't go back to dating dumb guys again.
Characterization Marches On: Penny was a lot dumber initially (for example, claiming her screenplay isn't based on her life because she's from Omaha and not Lincoln). She quickly moved from The Ditz to Women Are Wiser. Though this may be that she has gotten smarter from hanging around the guys. In a flashback as a teenager, it shows Penny celebrating a negative pregnancy test in quite a ditzy manner. Though there are some areas she is still clueless about such as thinking Vegas wedding chapels are for pretend weddings though this is likely because something of that nature never came up in conversation.
Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: Shares Sheldon wrangling duty with Leonard. After Sheldon came back from Disneyland, the two of them even looked on affectionately as he slept afterward as though Sheldon were their son.
Commitment Issues: Penny has this problem, big time. She and Leonard eventually works through it by Leonard putting the power to propose marriage in Penny's hands, so she won't have the weight of it on her shoulders until she decides she's ready.
Cool Big Sis: Once she fully integrated into the group, she likes hanging out with guys and they with her. She's later very sisterly to Amy and Bernadette.
Dating What Daddy Hates: Her more common boyfriends were, according to her dad, "skateboard idiots, white rappers, and sweaty dumbasses with their backwards hat." This makes him very pleased to see her dating Leonard, a Nice Guy who is college educated, has a steady job, and no felonies on his record.
Deadpan Snarker: Has increasingly evolved into snarking as the show continues, mainly towards Sheldon, more than likely a result of of his verbal abuse.
Drives Like Crazy: Penny does not actually drive badly, she drives like a person who has driven for a very long time and will sometimes bypass 'normal' behavior for a quicker route, such as not slowing down much over speed bumps. Her constant ignoring of the Check Engine light is a running gag, though.
Drowning My Sorrows: Whenever she has a problem, she usually reaches for the nearest wine bottle. Particularly prominent in The Flaming Spittoon Acquisition, where in nearly every scene she's in, she has a glass of alcohol ready, mainly because she was still upset over Leonard and Priya.
Embarrassing Tattoo: Penny has one on her buttock she claims is the Chinese symbol for "Courage". According to Sheldon, it actually means "Soup".
Sheldon: But I suppose it does take courage to demonstrate that kind of commitment to soup.
She apparently got a hidden Cookie Monster tattoo some time in the two years she and Leonard were broken up. When they got back together she told him that his reaction to it must either be nothing or "awesome!" Although another responsible reaction was Leonard inhaling sulfur hexoflouride (the stuff that makes your voice get really deep) and imitating the Cookie Monster.
The Big Guy: She's more capable of handling herself on a physical level than the guys are.
Fatal Flaw: Fear of commitment is arguably her defining flaw in the series. Due to this she's broken up with Leonard at least once and has insecurities about the prospect of marrying him. To a lesser extent she shares Leonard's insecurity, hers being more about whether she's intelligent enough for him.
Gamer Chick: Has shades of this with her Age of Conan addiction and swift mastery of Halo multiplayer. Not to mention her defeat of Leonard at chess (the same day she learned the rules!) in Season 5.
Girl Next Door: She moves into the apartment across the hall in the first episode and that alone gave Leonard some hope that she might become interested in him. She is consistently portrayed as a fairly down-to-earth and friendly girl who helps fill in the gaps in the guys' social skills.
Girly Bruiser: Penny is an attractive, outgoing, and quite boy-crazy aspiring actress. However, she's incredibly strong for a woman and way more capable of handling herself on a physical level than any of the guys on the show. In one episode, she actually broke Howard's nose with just one punch. In another, she wrestled Sheldon to the ground in a second.
Good Bad Girl: Although she's a nice girl, she does mention she started dating at 14, and she was going to sleep with Stuart when they went on a date, until Sheldon unintentionally interrupted.
There's also a flashback of her as a teenager reacting with ecstasy at a negative pregnancy test.
An early episode had her casually admit that after every breakup, she engages in thirty-six hours of meaningless sex with a random guy. In a thirty-seven hour time frame.
Groin Attack: She doesn't appreciate people stealing Sheldon's "stuff", and a swift kick to the balls is her preferred method of dealing with them. This is apparently the way they handle such issues in Nebraska, although a baseball bat appears to be an option as well.
Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: In the early seasons, Leonard (and later seasons Amy) idealized her as someone pure and innocent, exemplified when he consoled her after a bad incident at a Halloween party. While she is undoubtedly a very sweet and friendly person, she carries her own issues with a mean, angry, or stubborn streak, and Leonard acknowledging that she was imperfect and their relationship was imperfect was seen as a turning point for the better.
Heel Realization: In Season 5, she realizes that she was a bully in her high school days, and attempts to make amends with those she hurt, with little success.
A variation happens in Season 7 when it's pointed out that she never took the time to do something romantic with Leonard (and sex doesn't count). She never had to put much effort into relationships because she was pretty enough that guys just flocked to her.
Hidden Depths: There are a few occasions when she surprises even herself with retaining scientific principles, thought experiments and nerd culture just from hanging around these guys. She memorably did a double-take after using a Star Trek analogy.
Hypocrite: Penny shows several signs of hypocrisy, often she will call others out on things she does or has done herself. For example she criticises Leonard for being so insecure about the relationship he would resort to interfering with her relationship with a male student she was working with, despite several episodes earlier interfering with Leonard's relationship with Sheldon's female assistant for exactly the same reason. She also tells Sheldon he can't tell Amy what they can't do, only for Sheldon to point out that she commonly tells Leonard what he can't do. Although the others do sometimes show shades of Hypocrisy, Penny's the only one where it is normally not played for a joke.
The "I Love You" Stigma: She's got some commitment issues. These are not entirely her fault — it is implied and later explicitly stated that she once said "I love you" to someone too early, and that someone went on to treat her like crap.
Finally says the L word to Leonard in Season 6 and the emotional gravity of the moment makes her cry.
Instant Expert: If she is genuinely interested in playing a game, she tends to be almost a savant at it. She was better than Sheldon her first time playing Halo and beat Leonard at Chess while he was teaching her how to play.
The Lad-ette: While she can be very feminine and dressed-up sometimes, it's a running gag that she knows more about masculine activities than the guys. It's implied the guys started drinking more because of her (leading to the discovery of what it does to Raj), she was antsy about meeting a burglar so she could "go Nebraska on his ass" with a bat, loved going to the gun range with her dad, and when the guys needed someone who knew about manly things (specifically fishing) she was the one they turned to.
Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Masculine Girl to Leonard's Feminine Boy. It's a product of her personality that she doesn't take any crap from people while Leonard will just suffer through humiliation to avoid conflict. It's also sometimes played with, as she certainly likes girly things and can be quite emotional at times, leading to this gem when she first tells Leonard that she loves him.
Leonard: "Are we just going to pretend this isn't a big deal?" Penny: "...That's exactly what we are going to do, because... (tearing up) you're about to make me cry. And we both know if I start crying, you're going to start crying!" Leonard: (tearing up as well) "Yeah, you'd better go."
In Season 6, Bernadette's father tries to take Howard fishing as a bonding exercise. Howard realizes he had better learn how to fish, and asks Raj and Leonard to help him figure out who he can ask to train him in Typical Guy Stuff. One Gilligan Cut later, they are knocking on Penny's door. It's also revealed that she rebuilt an entire tractor engine all by herself at the age of twelve.
Master of the Mixed Message: She treated Leonard almost like a brother in the first season, despite kissing him a few times in addition to some mild flirting. Yet, when he mustered the courage to ask her out in the finale, she seemed surprised that he was interested in her, and only then started to consider him as someone date-able.
When they get back together in Season 5 and started their relationship beta-test, she would swing back and forth from a very casual Just Friends relationship to suggesting they make-out to pass the time when the power went out, which Leonard caught on and even joked about. Early Season 6, she confessed to Amy and Bernadette that she was worried about leading him on and was almost ready to break up to avoid hurting him again, only to be swayed by his Puppy-Dog Eyes and they finally had sex again.
Mood-Swinger: Part of the premise is that Penny is a very emotional girl who frequently baffles the guys with her illogical mood swings.
Ms. Fanservice: The first couple of seasons especially had her in short shorts and cleavage heavy tank tops as regular outfits. As evidence of her character growth and age (she was 21 in the first season), she started dressing more like an adult than a teenager, now more often wearing slacks and blouses.
That said, she never really stopped dressing in such a way that shows she knows what she has, and how to use it.
After Kaley Cuoco's real-life horse-riding accident, they stopped showing her legs to hide her surgical scars, which had no in-universe explanation.
Must Have Caffeine: In one notable instance, she came over to the guys' apartment, declared "out of coffe, need coffee" and poured herself a cup like it was nothing, pissing off Leonard's new girlfriend, who was unaware of her Drop-In Character status in the process.
Penny and Sheldon are Vitriolic Best Buds. By Season 4, when Leonard gets a new girlfriend and Penny decides to keep her distance, she comments how she's missed being around to hear Sheldon's "jibber jabber".
Old Shame: In-universe example. In Season 7, she confides that early on after moving to LA she appeared topless in a shower seen in an ultra low-grade horror movie called "Serial Apist" (with a murderous ape) that was never released. After telling Sheldon he lets her know that everyone already knew, Howard googled the movie almost the moment she left after meeting them for the first time. Could be Fridge Brilliance, she was so ashamed of the role that she was a little more picky about what she auditioned for and that's the reason she has next to no acting roles.
Only One Name: Her last name is unknown to the audience, Bill Prady said it will be revealed eventually. Lampshaded on the Season 6 blooper reel, when Johnny ad-libbed a joke about Penny having issues by asking what her last name was and Kaley, caught off guard, exclaimed "I don't know!"
Only Sane Man: Even more so than Leonard, especially when the guys are over complicating something or have dived too deeply into a fandom to realize they're not being normal.
Parental Substitute: Sheldon often views Penny as a substitute for his mother (who is alive, just lives away from him in Texas); he wants her to take care of him when he's sick, or sing him a lullaby. This is especially emphasized in the episode "The Guitarist Amplification", when Sheldon runs away to the comic book store, because he can't bear Leonard and Penny fighting, and Penny makes it up to him by buying him a robot and a comic book.
Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: By and large is ignorant of most of the geeky things such as who Stan Lee is, although she is more familiar with the music, reality shows, and romantic comedy scene than the guys (other than Raj).
Raised as the Opposite Gender: Her father wanted a son so badly that he forced her to play all sorts of sports so he could pretend she was a boy.
Really Gets Around: She opposes the idea that she sleeps around, despite Sheldon's math saying otherwise. She has mentioned sometimes grabbing the nearest guy for a weekend of sex after a breakup, but doesn't like doing it.
Smart People Wear Glasses: Utilized by her in The Tag of "The Egg Salad Equivalency." In an effort to better understand Leonard she considered taking some science courses at the local community college, only to find that she just can't keep up with it. Instead she bought some glasses to make herself look smarter, which is good enough for Leonard.
Leonard: Glasses? I really don't think that's gonna change *Penny puts them on* oh my God, you look so smart and hot!
Penny: I know, right? Watch this. *lowers glasses sexily* Molecules.
(Leonard leads her towards his bedroom)
Penny: Where are we going?
Leonard: To my bedroom so I can take everything off but those glasses. And maybe the boots!
The Smurfette Principle: In the first three seasons, when she was the only female lead. Afterwards, Amy and Bernadette were added to the main cast.
Street Smart: She's Street Smart but Book Dumb whereas the rest of the characters are Book Smart but don't always have the best instincts in real world social settings.
Penny: Should I be worried? Leonard: What? No! Of course not. Why? Penny: Because she's pretty and she's smart. And when you talk about work, she doesn't have to go home and look up words in the dictionary to understand what you said. Leonard: You do that? Penny: (quickly) No!
Team Mom: Sometimes she plays the part for the boys alongside Bernadette. Sheldon often treats her as his mom because Mrs Cooper lives in Texas and she's across the hall.
Mama Bear: Messing with or hurting one of the boys is a very good way to get an angry Penny after you. Just ask Lucy.
Tomboy with a Girly Streak: More like Girly Girl with a Tomboy Streak. She's fairly feminine with her interests in fashion, shoes, nails and pursuing a cereer in acting, but she's very tough and knows more about traditional manly interests like football, hunting or fishing than the guys. See also Girly Bruiser and The Lad-ette.
True Love is Exceptional: Her "type" at the beginning of the series was the dimwitted, Jerk Jock type. The main romantic pairing of the series is her and Leonard; Leonard being the exact opposite of this.
Unkempt Beauty: She isn't afraid of being seen "less than perfect", often lounging in sweats, an oversized t-shirt and hair messily pulled back. Although in an episode detailing her Age of Conan addiction they do go out of their way to depict her as genuinely messed up and not this trope (with blotchy skin, greasy and frayed hair).
Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between her and Leonard. The main thrust of the show, nudge nudge, the "bang" in the Big Bang. Season 3 had them in a Relationship Upgrade into the Official Couple, but they broke up before the end due to Penny having doubts about how committed she is to Leonard. After some time both characters had more or less moved on while remaining friends but the UST returned, and they explore being together as a couple again in the fifth season.
Valley Girl: Played this way near the beginning when set up as Leonard's love interest. Since then, her rather sordid Nebraska upbringing moved into a Cool Big Sis mindset.
Well Done Daughter Girl: She does everything she can to make her dad proud, but it doesn't work because she's a girl.
White Sheep: Well, compared to her sister, who shot her husband while drunk and her brother who cooks meth, Penny could be considered this.
Women Are Wiser: Played with. Penny has a lot more real world experience than the guys, but is just as prone to making dumb mistakes or decisions.
Howard Wolowitz, M.Eng.
Played by Simon Helberg
The way I see it, I'm halfway to pity sex.
Of the four male leads, the only one without a doctorate (for which he gets made fun of a lot despite that he has a master's degree from MIT and is an aeronautical engineer). As no group of geeks is complete without a Basement-Dweller, he lives at home with his mother, despite being in his late 20's at the start of the show. In addition, he is Jewish and practices the faith but enjoys not eating kosher from time to time. Also, among the group, he was a mixture of the Casanova Wannabe and Extraverted Nerd until he met and started dating Bernadette.
Basement-Dweller: Finally removed in the sixth season when he marries and moves in with Bernadette. Long beforehand the show had gone to great lengths to give this trope some Hidden Depths, acknowledging the cultural tendency of Jewish children to live with their parents until marriage. Howard's father also left them when he was eleven, he was always hesitant to leave because he knew she would be left all alone without him.
Berserk Button: He doesn't like being reminded that he doesn't have a PhD. Every time he tries to start something, Leonard tells him to sit down and he complies. He might not have a PhD but he recognises he's too puny to do anything about it.
Beta Couple: With Bernadette. Likely implemented because of the irony that the pervy swinger ends up being the first of the group to get married.
Book Dumb: According to Sheldon, for being "just" an engineer and the only one without a Ph.D. As Howard points out, many engineers simply don't bother going for a Ph.D after getting their Masters, since they are already more than qualified for most of the jobs in their field.
Brainy Brunette: He fills this role along with over half of the other characters, including Leonard, Sheldon, and Raj. He even once notes that (stereotypcailly) brunettes tend to be the smartest girls.
Breakout Character: While Sheldon was always among the primary trio (along with Leonard and Penny) and his popularity was apparent almost immediately, Howard has gradually been elevated into one of the more prominent cast members. The fifth season introduced two running plotlines for him, his upcoming marriage to Bernadette and being selected for a NASA mission. This is interesting because besides some evolving character dynamics the show had never really done such a Story Arc before.
Butt Monkey: He's often made fun of by Sheldon and everyone else (sometimes, even Penny) for his lack of a doctoral degree, his relationship with his mother and his Casanova Wannabe status. He was also the Butt Monkey to the other astronauts who constantly picked on him and bullied him when he was in the space.
Casanova Wannabe: His success with women is inversely proportional to the effort he puts into trying to get anywhere with them. Mainly because his idea of "effort" consists of skeevy pickup lines, pretending to be a goth, hookers, and generally being a creepy, sexist bastard. When he initially doesn't try hard with Bernadette, he finds himself doing much better, and eventually bonds with her by being himself, rather than trying to act out his inaccurate self-image.
The Cast Show Off: Helberg is a brilliant impressionist and they've given him the opportunity to demonstrate it. Memorably, he does a Stephen Hawking impression in an episode where he later appeared As Himself, with Helberg having to do the impression with Hawking on set watching him off camera. He's also not a bad singer, as he's shown a few times. Most notably his song for Bernadette in Season 7.
Character Development: After getting together with Bernadette, he's actually started to become nicer, more honest and less sleazy. He could still be a Jerkass from time to time, but he's still better than before. The few times his sleazy personality shows up (ie. ogling women at a gym), it only serves to remind you of how far he's come. This comes to a head in Season 5's "Stag Convergence" where he openly admits to Bernadette he is disgusted with how he was before and that he changed because of her.
Penny: That was the most beautiful thing I've ever heard, and it came out of you!
Comically Missing the Point: In "The Engagement Reaction" When Bernadette finds out the real reason why Howard's mother was in the hospital she chews him out for it. (He didn't know until she told her.) When she is asked where she is going she responds back with the following lines, everybody but Howard is surprised that she sounds like Mrs. Wolowitz when she shouts.
Howard: Where are you going sweetheart?
Bernadette: [Wolowitz voice.] TO THE TOILET!!!! IS THAT OK WITH YOU?!!
-everyone but Howard reacts in surprise.-
Howard: Is it me or does she sound sexy when she's angry?
Cultural Rebel: Enjoys not keeping Kosher. His favourite meal at the Cheesecake Factory is a bacon cheeseburger — "breaking two Jewish dietary laws at the same time."
Cunning Linguist: Or so he thinks. In reality, he only knows enough of each language he claims to speak in order to hit on women unsuccessfully.
The Engineer: His official status in the group. Howard has a master's degree in engineering from MIT and works for NASA as an aeronautical engineer, which eventually earns him a coveted spot on the next Soyuz rocket to the ISS.
Everything's Better with Princesses: When Bernadette greeted Howard as Cinderella, he stripped off his shirt and said in a deeper voice, "My lady." (And tried to mime riding a horse to her.)
Extraverted Nerd: Howard actually knows he's a nerd, but chooses to ignore this and act like he's cool in the hopes that people (especially women) will be fooled. He fits this trope so well he could perfectly be the Trope Codifier for younger viewers.
The Friend Nobody Likes: Leonard and Raj get along with him fine, but it's made very clear that he and Sheldon are not really friends, otherwise. Penny also disliked him immensely in the first few seasons until he learned to show her some respect.
Henpecked Husband: To Bernadette. He bonds with his father-in-law over the fact both are this.
Heterosexual Life-Partners: He and Raj are close. Many a joke on the show is about how they are perhaps too close and perhaps not so heterosexually...
Hidden Depths: He was at least somewhat aware of how women viewed him but felt that if he didn't try so hard he would never have a shot otherwise. In a Season 5 episode, he admits he's always wanted children, showing behind the sleazy flirting he's always wanted to settle down and raise a family. He is almost always the one to display a talent that would be put to use, such as sign language.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: While this becomes a more apparent factor of his character as the series progresses , there have been indications even from earlier episodes. He clearly possesses an ostensibly sensitive nature, there are severe implications that his flirtatious nature was based on a desire for genuine companionship (lampshaded to an extent when he enters a relationship with Bernadette). He undeniably possesses some degree of compassion and genuinely cares for his friends, most of his undesirable characteristics are associated with his overly confident and sexually frustrated nature (which are almost completely non existent when he and Bernadette officially enter a relationship).
Jewish and Nerdy: He's a Jew and frequently makes self-deprecating comments about it. He works for NASA and holds a degree in space engineering. Like his friends, he's a lot into sci-fi, comic books, video games, robots, and other geeky stuff.
Limited Wardrobe: He always wears a turtleneck, which Amy later suggests might be connected to the fact he was circumcized. He also typically wears fairly tight clothing, unique belt buckles and an alien lapel pin (that apparently has some meaning but will never be revealed to the world).
Lovable Sex Maniac: Though he calms down a bit when he gets into a long-term relationship with Bernadette.
Man Child: He's very dependent on his mother to take care of many of his basic needs. When he (briefly) moves in with Bernadette, he sees nothing wrong with expecting her to cook his meals and do his shopping and laundry for him.
Momma's Boy: Oh, god, yes. While he makes jokes about his mother's weight, voice, and even makes quips about her dying, he nonetheless becomes very angry when Raj lampshades it, saying, "Don't you bring my mother into this!" There's also the fact he lets her treat him like a child half the time. Eventually explained that this developed from his father leaving them... he stayed her little boy so she could focus on loving him instead of feeling alone and worthless.
Nice Jewish Boy: At the beginning of the series, Nice guy was probably the last thing you'd use to describe him. Though by the end of the second season, he had learned at least some manners, he was still way too oversexed. With the introduction of Bernadette, he's become a Nice Guy. Granted, he can get angry, but he's at least not dropping DoubleEntendres in every single one of his lines.
Only Sane Employee: When forced to babysit Sheldon, unlike Leonard or Raj who are resigned to attempting to appease him, Howard rarely cuts Sheldon any slack or puts up with his crap for very long.
Howard: Well, my power is the ability to pretend like I give a damn about your piddly-ass problem.
Played for Laughs, despite having the most tangible affect on world progress than his friends (major engineering projects with NASA) and having a Masters degree from MIT, his lack of a doctorate is a frequent Running Gag.
Averted in Season 5 when he fully shines. Even Sheldon is impressed that Howard is going into space. Well, impressed but certainly not more respectful, since in season 7 he outright tells Howard: "Truth be told, as a child, I did dream of going to space. Those astronauts were my heroes. And when you got to go, it was hard for me. Because it made me realize they’ll just send anyone up there."
Proud to Be a Geek: Like Raj, while aware of the social awkwardness it can cause, he seems quite content with their geekiness.
"The Reason You Suck" Speech: He was unabashedly sleazy around Penny until she tore into him mid-Season 2, which devastated him until Leonard coerced her to apologize. While a joke was made he didn't learn his lesson, it is notable that he was no longer behaving like that around Penny afterwards.
Sickly Neurotic Geek: He is asthmatic, allergic to peanuts, almonds, and walnuts, prone to canker sores and pink eye, succumbs to seasickness, has an incredibly high genetic risk of heart illness, and has transient idiopathic arrhythmia.
Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Downplayed, they've simply acknowledged that there is an attractiveness gap between him and Bernadette. In addition, we actually see the courtship in full so we can see how well they match up in intelligence and sense of humor.
Voice for the Voiceless: Raj often whispers what he intends to say and Howard interprets for him. Sometimes he says nothing or something completely else for laughs.
Rajesh "Raj" Koothrappali, Ph.D.
Played by Kunal Nayyar
Excuse me! I have selective mutism, a recognized medical disorder. You're just a douche.
The Token Minority, Raj is from New Delhi working in America on a visa as an astrophysicist. He is so shy around women, he is incapable of talking in their presence (even if not speaking to them, he can't talk if they are a part of the social group), eventually identified as Selective Mutism. The most consistent method of overcoming this is through alcohol, but he has tried several anti-anxiety medications with varying results.
Adorkable: Many women find him "a cutie-pie" and if any of the guys is to succeed in one of their from-time-to-time escapade for wooing girls, it's usually Raj.
Alone Among the Couples: He's the one in the group without a girlfriend for much of the time. Lampshaded frequently in Season 5 and 6. He sometimes acts like a jerk because of it.
Ambiguous Disorder: Rather interestingly, Leonard's mom eventually diagnosed him as having "selective mutism." A good deal of his stories involve him trying to get around or push through his psychological issues, which hinder him a lot more than Howard's overcompensation or Leonard's low self-esteem.
Character Development: Despite his selective mutism being almost his primary character trait, he is slowly working through it. One issue brought up in Season 6 was that despite his handicap he was rather superficial when it came to women "I want them to love me for me... but they have to be super-hot, like a 9 or a 10." He then met Lucy, a mousy, timid girl with a lot of social anxiety and they bond over their struggles. When she dumps him for pushing her too hard to meet his friends, he is shaken up enough to talk to Penny sober, finally cured of his mutism.
Raj: [completely out of nowhere] I'm thinking about adopting some sort of quirky affectation like a pipe or a monocle or a handlebar mustache. Leonard: Why, for all the girls out there looking for the Indian Monopoly Man? Raj: This is not a safe place. You can't share anything here.
Cultural Rebel: Raj hates India and everything to do with it, including and especially Indian food. He dreads talking to his parents for this reason, knowing they're going to try to guilt him into returning there.
In Touch with His Feminine Side: He's a self labeled 'Metro-sexual' and has most of his family and friends thinking he's gay. The fact that he's more feminine than the show's female characters doesn't help.
In Vino Veritas: Can only talk to girls if drunk or medicated until the Season 6 finale when he finally is able to speak to Penny, Bernadette, and Amy while sober. He has no problems talking to his mom or sister, though, thankfully.
Jerk Justifications: In later seasons, he seems to be more bitter about being the only one of his friends still single.
Limited Wardrobe: Almost always wears a sweater-vest and switches off between a tan and blue jacket.
Lovable Nerd: Like Leonard, though he becomes less lovable in later seasons.
Non-Idle Rich: Raj's family apparently is very wealthy. According to Sheldon, they are halfway between Bruce Wayne and Scrooge McDuck.
Out of Focus: He never completely disappears from the show but among the primary cast in the later seasons, he typically gets a couple of A Day in the Limelight episodes and not a whole lot else to do in between. This is more noticeable after Amy and Bernadette became more prominent, as they ended up taking time away from his interactions with Sheldon and Howard.
Proud to Be a Geek: Like Howard, while aware of the social awkwardness it can cause, he seems quite content with their geekiness.
The Quiet One: His inability to talk to girls while sober aside, he is decidedly the one of the foursome who talks less - in many scenes, his participation consists basically of throwing a snarky comment here and there.
Oh, great! The first monster I see, I'm gonna sneak in behind him, whip out my wand, and blast my magic all over his ass!
Throw the Dog a Bone: In the earlier seasons, if any of the guys were going to get lucky when at a party, it would end up being him, the guy with the most trouble talking to girls. In the later seasons, as the others have become more successful, he has slowly spiraled into depression over how much more pronounced his issues are. Still, every so often he does manage to get a girlfriend for a brief time and in the sixth season he meets Lucy, who sticks around longer than most.
Token Minority: He actually likes to play this up, hoping his exotic looks give him an edge.
Took a Level in Jerkass: Has started going down this direction. At the beginning of the series, he was actually one of the nicest ones in the group. But as of Season 4, has advocated for Howard and Bernadette to break up so he could get with her, to the point where he has a dream about Howard dying and him getting with Bernadette, and instead of congratulating them upon their engagement, cries to himself . Then he supposedly sleeps with Penny. In Season 5 premiere, he is unapologetic about any of it, even keeping it a secret that he and Penny did not actually have sex. Howard did say that Raj is always obnoxious, but his inability to speak to women when sober prevents others from experiencing his jerk-ass tendencies as much. This is highlighted in the Season 7 opener, where after being cured of his mutism he still has problems with saying the completely wrong thing.
Walking Spoiler: He was cured of his mutism in the finale of the sixth season, after a break-up with Lucy shocks him out of it. SIX full seasons of holding to the "can't talk to women without alcohol" quirk, a lot of episodes gave him a beer in hand just to get through an episode. Now, in the seventh season and beyond, his problems are slightly more normal but may be confusing to anyone who didn't catch the few episodes explaining his "rehabilitation."
Wham Episode: The Season 6 finale. Lucy dumps him and Penny goes to console him, discovering he is now cured of his mutism.
Aw, it's the alcohol and drug peer pressure my mother warned me about, I was beginning to think it was never going to happen. Yes please!
Sheldon's nerdyDistaff Counterpart, the group found her during a dating site prank they pulled on Sheldon. She grows attached to Penny and becomes both her best friend and Foil. As a result she formed a distaff relationship compared to Sheldon and Leonard. While she mirrored Sheldon in almost every aspect initially, over time she branched out through both her friendship with Penny and feeling a romantic attraction to Sheldon.
Abhorrent Admirer: Not so in looks, but in behavior. She starts off as a subversion of this trope (only wanting to fake a relationship with Sheldon to placate her concerned Mother) but then going on to make unwanted advances at both Sheldon and Penny. Played for Laughs, naturally.
Adorkable: When Stuart expressed an interest in Amy, his reasons for it was that she didn't look upon him "with ball-shriveling contempt." Basically saying that she was cute and not intimidating.
Ambiguously Bi: Though her interest in males has developed a bit since her initial appearance, she's very appreciative of Penny and fawns over her more than any other character seen in the show thus far. She's made a few sparse comments of the same type about Bernadette as well. For an example she gave Penny a very large painting of the two of them, and told her that it originally had the two of them nude but she had it changed as she didn't want it to "challenge their heterosexuality".
An alternative to this is more of a perpetual Stupid Sexy Flanders, she's straight but openly appreciates the attractiveness of her own gender.
One time, Amy mentions Penny has a better chance of getting with her than Leonard does.
The Bore: Initially an even worse case than Sheldon was, considering she has none of the same interests in entertainment as any of the group. After Character Development, she makes an effort to be less boring.
Celebrity Paradox: In an episode before her introduction, Raj referred to "that girl from Blossom being really smart." Evidently Amy and her actor Mayim co-exist here.
Character Development: She actually gets more development than any other character (except maybe Howard). When Amy was first introduced, she was emotionally repressed, The Stoic and basically a female Sheldon. Since she's become friends with Penny and Bernadette she's opened up socially and has become a far more friendly person who, unlike Sheldon, makes genuine efforts to get along with other people. Despite her improvements, in late season 4 and season 5 (and to a lesser extent, season 6), Amy often comes off as blunt, desperate, eccentric, and even creepy (her pseudo-lesbian comments about Penny), and her desire to be normal and accepted sometimes made her an Attention Whore. However in the last few seasons (especially 7) her weirdness and annoying traits have become almost completely non existent, she's now one of the most normal characters on the show, muchCloser to Earth than Sheldon (who is still the weirdo of the group), well aware of her boyfriend's quirks, but still endlessly patient and willing to put up with him.
Closer to Earth: While she's Sheldon's intellectual equal, she gloats less (though she's just as blunt), is more aware of social norms, and actually has some desire to be normal. She also doesn't seem to have any geeky interests like Sheldon.
Except the harp. And, in Season 4, connected Penny to an EEG while she cries.
Covert Pervert: Though she doesn't actually make any attempt to actually hide it, it's still pretty surprising whenever she not-so-subtly talks about her masturbatory habits.
Distaff Counterpart: Began as one to Sheldon, but her friendship with Penny and Bernadette has lead to...
Former Teen Rebel: Sort of inverted. She was not actually this when she was a teenager but clearly wants to be this in the present. Whenever one of the others take her along on legally dubious activities (like repainting Sheldon's parking spot) she seems to get a thrill over it.
Friendless Background: She has a preoccupation with friendship activities, especially with Penny, because this is the first time in her life she's been able to experience anything of the sort.
Generic Cuteness: Averted. While Amy is by no means "ugly", she definitely looks unusual in comparison to Penny, Bernadette, Sheldon's twin sister, or even Priya (Raj's sister). Mayim Bialik brings this up about herself in this interview about "geek girls" with Kari Byron of MythBusters.
Harp of Femininity: She is seen owning one and often plays it for recreation or when she's sad.
I Just Want to Have Friends: She craves companionship and friends because she was very lonely in her childhood, teenage years and young adulthood until she met Sheldon and his social group. She's willing to do many things to make Penny, a cheerleader type, her particular friend.
Improbable Aiming Skills: Amy demonstrates this in "The Weekend Vortex", explaining that she spent a lot of time throwing coins into wishing wells during her childhood, hoping for friends.
Amy: At a certain point, you start doing trick shots just to keep things interesting.
Insufferable Genius: In the early seasons, she was a toned-down version of Sheldon, and thus wouldn't hesitate to tell you the brutal details of how the universe or neurobiology worked. As of the sixth season, though, her insufferability has nearly vanished, especially in her almost ... normal boyfriend-girlfriend complaints with Sheldon.
Intelligence Equals Isolation: Unlike Sheldon, she went unwillingly through this; hence, her craving for social interactions in general, especially with other women.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: She genuinely doesn't seem to realize how rude she can be (especially to Penny), but when she thinks Penny's depressed she rushes to cheer her up. Or she's thrilled about being a bridesmaid in Howard and Bernadette's wedding. When they decide to get married at the courthouse before he gets into space, she wears her bridesmaid dress and tiara, and angrily stops the others from fighting.
Last Episode New Character: In Season 3. Notable in that it was a very brief appearance and all we knew of her was her name and the fact she was almost identical to Sheldon. Nothing was known of whether she was a scientist like the others, and by the following season Mayim expressed amusement that they matched their degrees.
Limited Wardrobe: Although her sense of fashion has changed extensively via contact with Penny, she is typically seen in very old-fashioned sweaters and skirts, once admitting her entire outfit once belonged to her grandmother.
Mother Nature, Father Science: She forms a classic scientific duo with Sheldon with her in Biology (nature) and Sheldon in Physics (hard science).
My Friends... and Zoidberg: She has shades of this attitude towards Bernadette at first, like referring to Penny as "stunning" and then Bernadette as "her passably cute friend", but she seems to mostly grow out of it as the three of them become better friends.
No Social Skills: Zigzagged. Amy has no natural social skills, but as a neurobiologist, she is fascinated with societal behavior, and knows about a lot of them. However, it's all book knowledge, and she's both poor at application, and there are rather big holes in her knowledge.
Queer People Are Funny: She's the go-to girl for when the gay jokes turn lesbian, in Season 5 she would make a remark towards Penny Once an Episode. This was almost eliminated outright in Season 6.
She Cleans Up Nicely: She typically wears rather dowdy clothing with a long skirt and shapeless sweaters (along with Mayim Bialik's self-described "ethnic" looks), but in part due to Penny's influence she sometimes manages to dress up for special occasions and catch others off-guard with how well she turns out. Fans also noticed how attractive she became in the Nurse Chapel costume while "Playing Doctor" with Sheldon Star Trek-style.
She also wasn't bad looking as Snow White either when the girls hit Disneyland.
Sixth Ranger: She join the group in Season 4 and becomes part of the regular cast.
The Stoic: At first. She gets better after awhile.
Too Kinky to Torture: at one point she gets sick, and Sheldon is induced to come take care of her. She enjoys his solicitous behavior so much that she starts faking her illness to keep him around. Once he finds out, he decides that his only recourse is to take her over his knee and spank her. She can barely hide her glee.
I remember the first time I looked through a microscope and saw millions of tiny micro-organisms. It was like a whole other universe. And if I wanted to I could wipe it out with my thumb like a god!
Howard's miniature-sized romantic interest. A microbiologist, she is often the voice of reason and by far the gentlest character of the show. In a contrast to the other scientists of the show, she doesn't have much difficulty in navigating a successful social life. Despite being sweet and bubbly, she can and has gotten angry enough to scare the others. She started out as a friend of Penny who also worked at the Cheesecake Factory to pay for her schooling, she later graduated with her doctorate and is working a very lucrative job for a pharmaceutical company.
Affably Evil: She's the nicest person on the show. She also invents things that are made for biological warfare.
Beta Couple: With Howard. Their relationship is actually a bit more of a roller coaster than most examples, as they had broken up for some six months between the third and fourth seasons and every other episode of the fifth season was introducing a new relationship hurdle they had to get through. Although them getting through the tough parts showed how good they are for each other, leading up to their marriage.
Berserk Button: Though not quite as insane as Sheldon, she is a walking panel of tiny berserk buttons. Don't try and dress as Cinderella when she called it. She's also shown to be extremely competitive during scavenger hunt.
Beware the Nice Ones: Despite being possibly the nicest character on the show, she has a real temper when angry. Her line of work is also extremely morally sketchy — she makes bioweapons for God's sake! Her vicious side comes out in full in "The Parking Lot Escalation" with an argument between Howard and Sheldon spilling over between her and Amy. She will go from demure to outright venomous in a second.
"I'm the one who had your car towed!"
Buxom Is Better: She is fairly well endowed, and this was mentioned in the show.
Howard's Mom: (regarding a custom made vest) She has a tricky figure, she's short and stacked like me!
One of her defining traits in her introductory episode is that she didn't really get any of the jokes the others would share, and behaved a little bit like Sheldon. Her second episode was similar (In response to Howard seriously proposing to her "Is this one of those jokes I don't understand?"). In her third episode she admitted to laughing just because it made Howard smile, while still not getting them (though she would try to explain some jokes to the others). Since then it's never reappeared.
Mid-Season 4, her personality started to evolve to what she is best known for, a sweetheart with an undeniable vicious side. A Season 7 episode lampshades it, after a minor subplot with her mistaking a "Get Well Soon" card for a co-worker in the hospital for a Retirement card ("Good luck with wherever you end up"), she expresses some relief that the co-worker is in no shape to actually read it. Howard, bemused, asks if she was like that before they got married.
Competition Freak: During Raj's scavenger hunt, she is merciless, berating Leonard for moving slowly (despite the fact that he has asthma and running quickly could potentially trigger an asthma attack), and was willing to run over pedestrians so that she could win.
Contralto of Danger: Bernadette usually has an adorably squeaky voice... until she gets pissed off. Then her voice drops low and the other characters know she means business.
Daddy's Girl: Her father appears to have a soft spot for her, calling her his "little girl".
Dating What Daddy Hates: Played with, her father barely hides his contempt for Howard as a person but has expressed some admiration for Howard's accomplishments.
Dumb Blonde: Completely subverted. She may talk in a cutesy voice and play the ingenue around Howard, but she's also a microbiologist with an interest in physics as well (she's every bit Howard's intellectual equal).
She mentions at one point that she puts on this facade to make Howard feel more secure in his own intelligence.
Fun Size: She needs a stepping stool just to see through her peephole.
Heel Realization: In an interesting subversion of The Unfair Sex, she was unsettled when Howard announced his chance to go to outer space because he didn't discuss it with her first. Howard apologized and tried to backtrack with a formal couple discussion on the matter, and she flatly stated he wasn't going and dragged his mother into the argument. It was only after talking with Amy and Penny did she realize that she was in the wrong. Quoth Amy, "We're not here to judge. We're just here to be supportive until you realize what a despicable thing you've done."
Hidden Depths: Normally, polite, sweet and kind. This does not translate to being soft or a pushover. When the girls cosplay as princesses, however, her demeanor changes... "I'm driving the car, it was my idea, I'm gonna be Cinderella. You bitches got a problem with that, we can stop the car right now!"
Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Not with Howard, who is only a few inches taller, but with an old boyfriend Glenn, played by 6'7 former basketball player Rick Fox.
The Ingenue: She's rather oblivious to Howard's double entendres at first.
Limited Wardrobe: She typically likes flower-print skirts and button-up sweaters.
Overly Long Name: After her marriage, she is, officially, Bernadette Marianne Rostenkowski-Wolowitz. Penny jokes that she should claim the website of that name before someone else does, only for Bernadette to reveal that Howard already has.
Perpetual Smiler: Bernadette is always smiling. And it's the always same smile, (see her picture above) whether she's enjoying time with her friends or saying some incredibly creepy and threatening things. Seriously, she wears the same damn smile when offhandedly commenting on her lab crossing Ebola with the common cold. And denying having done so a second later. Not to mention the conversation she has with Howard about how to talk to her father.
Put on a Bus: In "The Plimpton Stimulation". Offscreen, no less.
The Bus Came Back: She returned in "The Hot Troll Deviation" and got back together with Howard.
Raised Catholic: One reason she and Howard bond is because of their shared rebellion against their religious traditions.
Scully Box: As is normal for exceptionally small actresses being paired against taller actors, Bernadette is almost never seen without some sort of lift in her shoes.
Silk Hiding Steel: Despite her height, her apparent meekness and her mannerly behavior, she's among the rare characters able to make Sheldon shut up and abide. She can even handle Howard's mother, which is NO easy feat.
Smarter Than You Look: People tend to forget she is a microbiologist due to her personality. She once said she either wanted to be a microbiologist, physicist, or an ice dancer.
Team Mom: She and Penny take turns on this. She can even handle Sheldon.
Tsundere: Type B. She's usually a sweetheart, but when she gets angry...
Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Let's face it. Bernadette is way out of Howard's league, who is also a perverted creepy loser in addition to being far less attractive than sweet, beautiful Bernadette. Often lampshaded by Penny that wonder What Does She See in Him?.
What the Hell, Hero?: To Raj when Leonard reveals to Howard that Raj used to have a thing for her. Of course, she also calls him a "Cutie Pie" after she's done chewing him out.
Played by Laurie Metcalf
"Leonard, the Lord never gives us more than we can handle. Thankfully, He blessed me with two other children who are dumb as soup."
Sheldon's mother, she's a religious fanatic who, despite their differences, is very close to Sheldon emotionally. She is generally warm and friendly and with a southern charm that draws everyone else to love her immensely. Although not book-smart, she is extremely wise. In a comparison to Beverly Hofstader, she is essentially the mother Leonard wished he had.
Brutal Honesty: Not the same as Sheldon, but very blunt all in all. This seems to run in Sheldon's family.
Purity Sue: invoked Has a few traits of this, largely in that everyone loves her. She has a bit of "righteous condemnation" attitude but admitted to Penny that at her age any guy could have her with a car and a bottle of strawberry wine.
Street Smart: She's a lot like Penny. She doesn't have a lot of book smarts, but she knows how to deal with the real world.
Team Mom: She often plays mom to the entire troupe when she shows up and is especially fond of cooking large family-style meals for them.
Viewers Are Geniuses: The embedded joke. Her name is Mary. She fondly calls her unworldly son Shelley. Sheldon can be a monster sometimes; at all times he has difficulty making sense of the world. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote a novel about the creation of an Ur Example monster. Mary Cooper gave birth to "Shelley"... her own Frankenstein creation.
Excuse me Leonard, I am the one getting a divorce, Mitsy is the one who is dead, why are you the one making a fuss?
Leonard's mother, she's emotionally distant and entirely cold to him and has been his entire life, but those same qualities lets her find a kinship in Sheldon. She has a double specialty of Neurobiology and Psychiatry, specifically that of childhood development. In a comparison to Mary Cooper, she is basically the mother Sheldon wished he had.
Abusive Mom: Made worse by the fact that whatever damage was done was seemingly unintentional. Some of her dialogue suggests that some of it may have been intentional, testing various theories on Leonard, his brother, and his sister. She used most of Leonard's childhood as the subject for at least two of her books, Needy Baby, Greedy Baby and The Disappointing Child.
All Psychology Is Freudian: Played with. Despite being a trained psychiatrist and acknowledging that Freud's theories are outdated, she still invokes this to manipulate Penny to the point of tears.
Defrosting Ice Queen: She never shows warmth or nurturance of any sort towards anyone, coldly deconstructs anyone she talks to and virtually never thaws. However, she does loosen up a bit around Sheldon, simply because they have so much in common. She loosens up a bit around Penny when she gives her some tequila. "Leonard, why didn't you tell me you've been tapping my homegirl?" In her second appearance she's slightly less formal and offers to help Leonard with his relationship problems...of course, she then dismisses Leonard's concerns with a "Buck up, Sissy Pants." but it's the thought that counts.
Distaff Counterpart: To Sheldon, before Amy was introduced. Ironically, she serves as a Foil to Amy in this way — while Amy has developed into a more "normal" character, Beverly needs alcohol before even a hint of human emotion begins to seep through, making her an extreme counterpart to Sheldon's eccentricities while Amy is a counterpart to his more caring and human side.
Hard On Soft Science: According to her, she and her husband (an anthropologist) wrote a paper on the same subject (that they deliberately had sex only for procreation). Hers was "the only one worth reading, of course".
Innocent Innuendo: Once had a memorable conversation with Sheldon that initially came across to the audience as the two of them contemplating having sexual intercourse... only for it to be revealed that they were actually talking about a karaoke duet.
Jerkass: She's incredibly cold and impersonal, and not only psychologically rips apart anyone she meets, but seems to enjoy doing it so she can analyze them, and regularly talks down to people. Leonard's anecdotes about her are almost universally about how cold and unloving she was and how much she favored his brother and sister over him. The only hints of normalcy in her come up when she's drunk, but most of the time she never shows the faintest hint of a good person hiding beneath it all.
Karma Houdini: Like Sheldon, her condescension and parental abuse are Played for Laughs, though unlike Sheldon she never seems to suffer even minor consequences for it.
Kubrick Stare: Whenever she is about to indulge in some psychiatry, she looks over her glasses and gives an evil smile.
Another example is her incredibly blunt manner when informing Leonard that his Uncle Floyd, the only family member he got on with, had recently died. Made far worse since it's entirely possible he could have been one of her siblings.
Mind Rape: The resident mistress of this. For reference: She meets Penny for the very first time on the first floor of Penny's apartment, and after asking what Beverly does, they're on the third floor. By the time they get to Leonard's apartment (fourth floor), she has reduced Penny to tears.
Slasher Smile: If she smiles at you, run. If it is coupled with her Kubrick Stare, run faster. She is about to destroy your childhood memories.
Why Are You Not My Son?: For all the concern her son shows to her, she couldn't care less. Most notable is when she thanks Sheldon for driving her back to the airport even though it's Leonard who's in the driver's seat.
Voiced by Carol Ann Susi
"TOO BUSY TO HELP YOUR MOM WITH HER ZIPPER?"
Howard's overbearing mother whom he insists lives with him, rather than he with her. During the show, she has never actually been seen on screen, only yelling from off it. According to Howard, she is very large in figure and sports facial hair. Has a tendency to treat Howard as if he is still a child, which he is often annoyed by and simultaneously enjoys on some level, and she also requires (or at least likes to have) Howard to help her with necessary tasks in daily life such as shopping and transport to/from fitness class and beauty clinics.
Supreme Chef: Zigzagged. According to Leonard, her brisket just melts in the mouth. However, her Thanksgiving specialty "tur-briske-fil" (turkey stuffed with brisket stuffed with gefilte fish) has to be swallowed like pills.
The Voice: She makes a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance in Season 6, though they don't show her face.
Mrs. Koothrappali: Rajesh, are you letting your sister date that little Howard boy?
Dr. Koothrappali: Now, hold on. If she is dating an American, that's not a bad way to go. He's Jewish. Those chaps are very successful, and they don't drink a lot.
Raj's parents who live in India, they hope their son will settle down with a nice (Indian) girl someday and are very willing to set him up with people. They never appears in-person but instead talk to Raj and Priya via video-chat.
Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: They are constantly trying to set Raj up with a nice (Indian) girl, and they have no problem using a formerly overweight girl's low self-esteem to their son's marital advantage. And they verbally wonder if Sheldon and Leonard are a gay couple as well. Right in front of them.
Arranged Marriage: Despite believing in this tradition, they actually married for love.
Mrs. Koothrappali: Grandma, wake up, it's Doogie-time!
Meddling Parents: That they are able to do so from the other side of the planet is amazing.
Open Minded Parent: Often suspect that Raj might be calling to give them the "gay talk" and show acceptance to the idea, despite Raj repeatedly protesting that he's straight, albeit somewhat metrosexual.
Parental Favoritism: Somewhat towards Priya. How they are with their other four children is unknown, but Raj's comments make them sound like very loving parents overall.
Phrase Catcher: Raj's father has one associated with him, whenever Raj claims to have grown up poor;
"Your father's a gynaecologist. He drives a Bentley!"
You Got Spunk: Dr. Koothrappali is quite impressed when Penny states that they'd be lucky to have her as a daughter-in-law.
Played by Courtney Henggeler
"You listen to me. If you wanna start acting like a brother who cares about me, then terrific. Bring it on. But you try one time to tell me who I should be sleeping with, and you and I are gonna go round and round the way we did when we were little. Remember?"
Brutal Honesty: One of the only qualities she shares with her fraternal twin. When Leonard asks her out...
Missy: Aw, that's so sweet! But no thanks. Leonard: ...Oh. You have other plans...? Missy: No.
Deadpan Snarker: This appears to be Missy's preferred method of dealing with her brother and flirtatious suitors. When asked by Leonard, Howard, and Raj about how she knows Sheldon (they don't know she's his sister yet), her response is:
"Oh, he once spent nine months with my legs wrapped around his head."
Ms. Fanservice: Compared to Sheldon, she definitely knows how attractive she is and wears nice dresses and heels during her brief appearances.
One-Shot Character: She's only appeared once in the series so far, although there have been several other mentions of her by Sheldon and their mother. Sheldon's more likely to talk about Missy than their older brother, George.
Polar Opposite Twins: With Sheldon. Sheldon is wildly egocentric, only interacts with others when forced to and tends to look down on anyone who isn't as smart as he perceives himself to be. Missy is out-going, friendly, level-headed and sociable.
Sibling Yin-Yang: Aside from their similar physical features, they are literally polar opposites in personality and behavior. However, Sheldon is excited by the prospect that Missy may carry the genes to produce another "him", or Sheldon 2.0.
So Proud of You: Probably one of the sweetest moments between Sheldon and any of his family is when Missy prepares to leave and tells Sheldon that she's always bragging to anyone who'll listen about her brother "the rocket scientist". Of course, Sheldon takes offense to being called anything except a theoretical physicist, but it's the overall thought that counts and it shows that Missy is very proud of her brother's academic accomplishments.
Southern Belle: She wears nice clothes, speaks with a thick Southern accent, and behaves in a much more mature and mellow manner than her brother.
Statuesque Stunner: Like her twin brother, Missy towers over Penny and the other three guys.
Played by Aarti Mann
I have five brothers and sisters. One of them is bound to screw up real big and then I'll tell my parents about you.
Raj's sister and Leonard's love interest for a good part of Season 4.
Always Someone Better: Penny sees her this way (with some prodding from Amy), in regards to her career and education level.
Brainy Brunette: She's a lawyer who graduated at the top of her class at Cambridge.
Cultural Rebel: A little. She apparently, according to Sheldon, "enjoyed the sweet taste of Hindu rebellion in the form of a Bob's Big Mac cheeseburger". She also doesn't have much problem dating Leonard against her parents' wishes and directly against her brother's orders (which the Hindu Code of Manu explicitly forbids).
Foreign People Are Sexy: According to Amy, anyway. Leonard seems to feel the same, and even wanted to try out positions in the Kama Sutra with her.
I Want My Beloved to Be Fashionable: Made Leonard dress cooler/ditch his trade mark hoody and insisted he get contacts. This was actually treated as a bad thing because minor changes in his wardobe led to her making bigger demands like pushing Penny out of their social group (nevermind that there are three other people including her brother who are friends with her in said group).
Rules Lawyer: Literally in one episode, where she picks apart the roommate agreement which Sheldon has written and allows Leonard to exploit every loophole in it.
Your Cheating Heart: After coming back to India, still in a relationship with Leonard, she cheats on him with her ex-boyfriend. In the following episode it's implied that she and Leonard have broken up.
Played by Casey Sander
Of course. A pretty girl like Bernadette, she'll find a new guy.
Bernadette's father and later Howard's father-in-law, a retired cop and a man of few words.
Berserk Button: Make that several buttons, according to Bernadette: In order, Jimmy Carter, gardeners, foreign people, homosexuals, Sean Penn, the Second Vatican Council, gun control, organic food, the designated hitter rule, recycling, and his daughter marrying a Jew.
Death Glare: He really, really seems to enjoy giving these to Howard.
Henpecked Husband: He may be a retired cop, but that doesn't mean his wife can't make him do things.
Be Careful What You Wish For: It's stated several times that Wyatt wanted his youngest daughter to be a boy, which messed with Penny's head when she was growing up. However, it's later revealed that Penny's brother came along a few years later, but her statements about him being a methhead and fleeing for the Mexican border doesn't make her father's granted wish oh-so great anymore.
Overprotective Dad: Subverted, he liked Leonard just from what Penny told him and long before meeting in person. After learning they broke up and put on a deception, he puts on a show of being the mean parent and instead quietly begged Leonard to figure out a way to make it work.
Papa Wolf: In "The Hesitation Ramification", Penny got a small part in an Series/NCIS episode. After it was cut, there's a scene with her talking to Wyatt on the phone, assuring Wyatt that no, he doesn't need to fly down and kick Mark Harmon's ass.
Why Couldn't You Be Different?: He wanted Penny to be a boy. And then Wyatt finally got his coveted son a few years later, but considering how Penny describes her brother as a "kinda chemist" and asks God to make him stop cooking meth, it's likely that this didn't go the way Wyatt planned, either.
Played by Kevin Sussman
"Okay, if you are going to question the importance of an actor's signature on a plastic helmet from a movie based on a comic book then our lives have no meaning!"
The owner of the comic book store the guys frequent, he is one of the few geeky individuals on the show who is otherwise not a supergenius like the others.
Ambiguously Bi: In Season 6, Stuart has apparently been without a date for so long that after an awkward moment with Raj, who later asks him if he wants to hang out sometime, Stuart comments to himself that he could do worse. He also admits that Thor is "hot".
Ascended Extra: He has been hanging around the group since Season 2, showing up a couple of times a year but never really significant. Season 6 practically upgrades him to main cast, at the least supported by Word of God that he will have an expanded role. While he didn't stay in the main cast listings for long, unlike Leslie Winkle he still shows up more often than before and usually with a significant role involved.
Butt Monkey: Everything he says is depressing. His idea of being "cocky" is to claim that he's "unobjectionable." He can be stood up by a stray cat.
Characterization Marches On: In earlier episodes, he was a Cool Loser contrast to the group, but was able to successfully flirt with and ask Penny out. In time he became even more pathetic and helpless, and to point he lives in the store due to financial problems and his poverty and depression becoming a Running Gag. At least some of this could be described as a falling out over how his relationship with Penny ended and a series of soul-crushing problems that killed his self-esteem. His social skills have started to come back in "The Bakersfield Expedition" where he chats up the girls while trying to recommend comics for them and repeatedly berates his male customers for leering at them.
The Chew Toy: His life is essentially one misfortune after another.
The Eeyore: Often comments on how pathetic his life is.
Flanderization: He was originally just a very normal guy who successfully asked Penny out. It was a key plot point that in terms of being a decent, normal guy he was virtually identical to Leonard. While he remained a friendly guy he later gained some neurotic ticks, low self-esteem and has a lot more trouble talking to women than before. The change can probably be explained that "nice, normal guy" doesn't leave things too open for comedy and they wanted him to stand apart from Leonard. It's implied in the show that he hit a string of bad relationships in addition to financial problems and health issues. Getting crushed by Penny (who said Leonard's name while they were making out) in addition to living in the comic book store probably destroyed his self-esteem.
The Generic Guy: In comparison to the eccentric geniuses that are the Main 4, Stuart is a relatively unassuming and normal guy who just wants to run a semi-successful business. His only major talent appears to be his gift for graphic design, drawing, and art.
Genre Savvy: He knows how to entice the geeks pretty well, talking about how a sword was "limited edition" (only 5,000 of them) which sent Sheldon in a frenzy. Part of this is Sheldon himself, he could tell him anything is limited edition and he will buy it, like an average Batman squirt gun for $200.
Heterosexual Life-Partners: Interesting in that one of the goals of Season 6 was to have him develop this relationship with Raj, after Howard getting married he could no longer be Raj's "wingman." They are almost never seen separate from each other and there is plenty of Homoerotic Subtext going around.
Nice Guy: Despite his oddities, Stuart is a very friendly guy and is always willing to help someone out, be it with selecting a comic book or needing a little bit of an emotional boost. He also feeds stray cat, which is quite heartwarming when you consider his financial situation.
Overshadowed by Awesome: He actually went to the Rhode Island School of Design, a fairly prestigious school and he thus has some genuine skills in art. But he hangs around Sheldon, who dismisses it as equally ridiculous as Howard's Masters degree from MIT.
Perpetual Poverty: How little profit the comic book store makes has become Stuart's Running Gag. Among other things, he's mentioned having to sleep in the store, going without meat, and having to shower at Leonard and Sheldon's apartment.
Recurring Character: One of the most frequent recurring characters in Seasons 2-5. In Season 6, he was promoted to series regular, only to be "demoted" back to a frequently recurring character.
Romantic False Lead: Dates Penny and Amy for one episode each, both of which force Leonard and Sheldon to reconsider their relationship with those girls.
Shipper on Deck: In "The Mother Observation", he admits to shipping Leonard and Penny, saying that each has made the other a better person, and calling them "the best couple I know." (To which Amy and Bernadette react indignantly.)
Throw the Dog a Bone: Kind of a meta-example, ever since Season 3 most of his humor comes from his low self-esteem, poverty, neurosis, medical issues, and even feeling a little lonely despite seeing him with anonymous, nameless friends. While most of that is still his main comedic thrust, as he has become a more prominent character in Season 6, this results in the audience seeing him as having a tight group of friends (the main characters) that invite him to activities and treat him well, Sheldon's jerkass nature notwithstanding.
At the end of Season 7, after his comic shop is burned down, Howard offers him a job at taking care of his mother. To everyone's surprise, Stuart likes it.
Unlucky Everydude: Compared to the other characters, Stuart seems to have very bad luck. As noted above, his financial situation is almost always precarious at best and the burning down of his beloved comic book store nearly breaks the poor guy. It isn't until he starts caring for Mrs. Wolowitz, a fairly well-paying job Stuart actually enjoys, that his luck finally appears to be turning around.
Played by Sara Gilbert
You put electrodes in a rat's brain and give him an orgasm button he will press that thing until he starves to death.
A fellow physicist at the university, she has brief romantic relationships with Leonard and Howard, and an intellect and attitude to rival Sheldon. She never passes up a chance to insult him.
Ascended Extra/Demoted to Extra: Began to become a more prominent character and was even briefly promoted to main credits, but faded away again when her character proved uninteresting outside of her rivalry with Sheldon.
Berserk Button: She will do anything to show up Sheldon if he's mentioned.
Brainy Brunette: Leslie is the first major female example of this until Amy and Alex come along in later seasons.
Casting Gag: Sara Gilbert and Johnny Galecki were married on Roseanne, Leslie happened to be the first girl of any significance in Leonard's life on the show (aside from Penny).
Put on a Bus: Her appearances decrease rapidly once Amy and Bernadette join the cast as regulars. When Leonard turns up at her apartment in Season 5 he mentions that they hadn't spoken in a while, possibly justifying her absence, as it implies that she might have left the university for a new job (since they were lab-mates in the first couple of seasons and would have seen each other at work even if they didn't socialise any more).
There were a few episode where a look-a-like woman was in the cafeteria, eating lunch with others, behind the main action of the scene. Whether this was her or someone else was never mentioned.
Really Gets Around: Leonard describes her as "using sex as a stress release" and she at one point mentions "waking up on a futon with a bunch of guys I don't know".
She and Leonard have hooked up twice, though the first time was purely for the sex, and there have been other hints when they're separated.
Later she dated Howard for a while, making her the fifth woman to sleep with Howard without being paid.
Sitcom Archnemesis: She strongly dislikes Sheldon and considers him an "arrogant, misogynistic East-Texas doorknob". When she insulted his intelligence, he came to hate her, considering her his "archenemy".
The Smart Girl: While most of the characters on the show are very brilliant, Leslie is possibly the only one (along with Amy) who can be considered Sheldon's intellectual equal.
Static Character: Despite showing a deal of potential as a foil or rival for Sheldon, and amassing a significant fanbase in her own right, the writers never really let her grow from sporadic nemesis. Word of God says this was because the writing team found it difficult to expand her character beyond her rivalry with Sheldon.
Played by John Ross Bowie
"We're all pathetic and cweepy and can't get girls. That's why we battle wobots."
Another rival at the university, he and Sheldon do not get along well at all. Kripke is defined by a speech impediment in being unable to pronounce R's, substituting the sound of a W, making him unable to say his own name properly.
Always Someone Better: If he's featured in an episode, by the time it ends, he'll have faced at least one of the guys and come out the winner. Most prominent when they face him in a BattleBots fight, as their robot did well destroying a toaster oven while Kripke's robot "Had angry sex with a Camry!" It could be argued that Barry is the "smartest" character in the series, being the academic equal of Sheldon and a capable engineer (demonstrated with the robot battle); in a sixth season episode, when both have similar proposal for a reactor, Sheldon admitted without any pressure that the Kripke's work was a lot better.
Casanova Wannabe: He tries hitting on Penny in the most obnoxious way, prompting Howard to quip "I'm looking pretty good right now, aren't I?"
Friendly Enemy: Depending on the Writer he is on decent terms with the group as a whole but often ends up as the villain of an episode. Played with when Sheldon believed he held power over the use of the University's supercomputer, thus spent time developing a Friendship Algorithm to become friends with him.
The Gambling Addict: Implied, given he willingly went to Sheldon's party only because there's going to be a raffle.
Hidden Depths: Has something of a fratboy personality and often crude and obnoxious but is every bit a genius as the rest of the cast. When competing for tenure he also turns up the charm and is apparently great with kids.
Jerkass: Not always (see Took a Level in Jerkass) but he certainly qualifies at times. He's even able to sometimes surpass Sheldon in this regard.
Professional Butt-Kisser: Not often demonstrated but comes out whenever a promotion of some sort is available at the university.
If any of you need my nose, you will find it firmwy wodged in the collwective wectums of the tenure committee.
Recurring Character: He's one of the series' longest running regulars and usually appears at least once or twice per season, although some feature him much more than that.
The Rival: To Sheldon, being that they both have massive egos and typically get into prank wars or competitions with each other. In his introductory episode, he seemed to be rivals with Howard, given they were both engineers. But in general he is more often a co-worker the group only sometimes doesn't get along with rather than anything malicious involved, he doesn't quite fit the role of a Sitcom Arch-Nemesis.
Took A Levelin Jerkass: Zigzagged When he first appeared Barry though arrogant and jerkish, Barry didn't seem a particularly bad guy, just another scientist on an opposing team. Since then however he's gone back and forth from being a Friendly Enemy, and a very unpleasant man who seems to exist just to bully Sheldon and rub his failures in his face. A recent episode took this to whole level by revealing he regularly embezzled the university, by applying for grants to investigate things he knew he couldn't prove, meaning he is free to spend the money on things for himself.
Played by Brian Smith
"I was watching the Discovery Channel and they said if you cut a Starfish in half it will just come back to life."
A brief boyfriend of Penny's who becomes friends with the guys. Hopelessly stupid, thinking that bouncing a laser off the moon would be a danger to the moon, he is otherwise a decent guy.
Brainless Beauty: Male version, he's outright described as being very handsome by everyone, and is as thick as two short planks.
Dumb Is Good: Incredibly dense, but is very open and friendly with the guys.
Hidden Depths: While he is hopelessly unable to grasp the actual science, he still shows an interest in what the guys are doing and apparently watches the Discovery Channel from time to time. He is also very knowledgeable about the designing and creation of restaurant menus.
Kindhearted Simpleton: Simple-minded in nearly every regard, Zach is arguably the nicest person in the series and never once acts malicious or rude towards Penny or the guys. Even Sheldon starts to restrain himself when Zach makes dense comments, simply because the guy is just too nice and friendly to be mean or blatantly condescending to.
Literal-Minded: When having gotten in a fight, he knocks on her door...
Nice Guy: Got upset when he realized the others were mocking him, but quickly forgave them when offered some Milk Duds. It's one of the main reasons the guys don't mind having Zach around, and he's incredibly earnest when it comes to their similar nerdy interests.
Not So Different: Raj bonds with him after realizing that Zack is a comic book aficionado.
Odd Friendship: While the guys initially made fun of his stupidity, they quickly ended up befriending him due to their love of comic books. They continued to hang out even after Penny had broken up with him.
Romantic False Lead: A rather triumphant example, as he slowly bonded with the rest of the main characters despite largely being there to provoke some awkwardness between Leonard and Penny. He avoids the traps of being either too obnoxious (wondering why Penny is bothering with him) or being too decent of a guy (making him seem too appealing) by making it so that he and Penny did not have a whole lot of chemistry, so the focus was on the awkwardness and not worrying about hurting his feelings. The fact he was also pretty funny made him something of an Ensemble Darkhorse, and not just for Shipping reasons.
I'm sorry, we don't have a code for "robot hand grasping a man's penis."
Desk nurse at the local hospital, who has to deal with/knock sense into the guys whenever their Zany Schemes land them there. Also appears in the very first scene of the pilot as the receptionist at the sperm bank Leonard and Sheldon go to.
Howard: What if I were to introduce you to (holds up $5 bill) the man who freed your people? Althea: Unless my people were freed by Benjamin Franklinnote $100 dollar bill and his five twin brothers, you are wasting your time!
Deadpan Snarker: Everything she says is snarky. It's what makes her so memorable as a character, despite having only four appearances (so far).
Sassy Black Woman: Oh so much. She's 100% willing to call the guys out on their stupidity and loads on the sass while doing it.
Women Are Wiser: When Howard comes in with the robot hand stuck on his privates, Althea immediately finds the solution that could have saved him a lot of embarrassment: simply turning the robot off and then on again.
Arch-Enemy: Sheldon considers him this in his earlier appearances, owing to his failure to attend a Comic-Con convention a number of years previous, which Sheldon attended in hopes of an autograph. They eventually become friends though.
The Atoner: Shows signs. He invited Sheldon and his friends to a party — and when Sheldon actually shows up, Wheaton gave Sheldon a signed action figure to make up for not showing up at the Star Trek convention Sheldon went to as a child. Of course, Brent Spiner ended up inadvertently ruining the gesture by opening said action figure, but at least Wheaton is off Sheldon's Arch-Enemy list. He later seemed to be on good terms with him at Howard's Bachelor Party. He later appears at on Sheldon's 'Fun with Flags' webshow, unintentionally causing trouble with Sheldon's relationship to Amy, ending with Sheldon throwing up in his rosebush. He's still friends with Sheldon as of the Season 7 finale.
Beard of Evil: Has stubble, but still keeps it after he stops being evil.
Evil Gloating: Gloats that being Sheldon's archnemesis means he lives in Sheldon's head rent free.
Heel-Face Turn: He eventually goes back on his original jerkish behaviour and forms a friendship with not just Sheldon, but all the others. See The Atoner.
Karma Houdini: Regardless of the episode and what he does specifically, Wheaton typically causes trouble for the group and specifically Sheldon and never gets any retribution. He breaks up Leonard and Penny to win a bowling match and wins. There's a certain part of the fandom that wants Penny to figure out he did it on purpose and get her revenge.
Manipulative Bastard: In his early appearances. He deliberately starts an argument between Penny and Leonard so that his bowling team can beat Sheldon's.
Nice Character, Mean Actor: In the show's universe, Wheaton is a selfish, scheming mastermind Sitcom Archnemesis who orchestrated the first break-up between Penny and Leonard just to beat Sheldon's team at bowling — a far cry from his character on Star Trek (which is how Sheldon initially knew of him).
Mean Character, Nice Actor: Which in turn results in this, since in real life Wheaton is known to be a nice guy.note Because of this, Wheaton's Law (originally "Don't be a dick") was refined to "Don't be a dick, but it's okay to play one on TV.
Took a Level in Kindness: He's not as antagonistic as he was in earlier seasons. He seems to have dropped his feud with Sheldon as well.
Played by Margo Harshman
"All I know is that corduroy makes too much noise. If you'll excuse me I have to go find quieter pants."
A grad student Sheldon hires as an assistant. Friendly with the group, she is at least somewhat capable of dealing with her boss' many eccentricities. Which gets harder to do as time goes on.
Butt Monkey: Only natural since she has to be Sheldon's assistant.
Love at First Sight: Raj immediately gets a crush on her, though as usual he is incapable of talking to her.
Puppy-Dog Eyes: Which make Sheldon's abominable treatment of her more annoying.
Ship Tease: Between her and Leonard. Alex obviously has a crush on him and keeps hitting on him, which he didn't realize at first.
Tomboyish Name: Along with the requisite gender confusion when Amy learns Sheldon's new assistant Alex is female. Penny laughs hysterically when Amy gets worried about the implications: "He didn't tell me Alex was a girl." "Maybe he didn't notice."
"The Reason You Suck" Speech: She receives a brutal one from Penny, who calls out her habit for bailing too quickly in her relationship with Raj. Penny even flat-out calls her "a bad person."
Shrinking Violet: To the point where it destroys her relationship with Raj. Her anxiety is so terrible that she literally can't handle being around more than one person at a time and panics every time Raj attempts something outside of her comfort zone.
Wham Episode: The Season 6 finale, when she breaks up with Raj, curing him of his selective mutism.
Played By Regina King
The Human Resources director at CalTech and on the tenure committee. Given the quirks of the main characters, she finds herself having to counsel them often on what is and is not appropriate behavior in the workplace. She was very familiar with Howard before he got married.
Ship Tease: Raj has expressed some attraction to her (thus also making it somewhat Token Shipping), although it is greatly one sided.
Surrounded by Idiots: Has frequent run-ins with the guys, in particular Sheldon, who somehow manages to stumble blindly into incredibly racist comments without meaning to.
Token Minority: Certainly notable among the recurring characters (the show has had plenty of minority characters but besides Raj they haven't been more than one episode). Sheldon also tends to single her being black as a character trait, not understanding why Roots may not be an appropriate or insightful gift to give her.
"If I had known people would be calling me "Professor Proton" into my 80's, I wouldn't have quit smoking."
A children's science show host 30 years ago, he was invited by Sheldon to perform a "birthday party" science demonstration for the group. He is bitter that despite being a degree'd professional with a Ph'D in physics, none of his later work was taken seriously because he was a kids show host. He appreciates the attention and respect Sheldon and Leonard give him, though is easily annoyed with Sheldon's hero worship. He passed away after several appearances in the show, but continued to manifest as a Spirit Advisor to Sheldon.
Cool Old Guy: Once you get past the grumpiness, he is very friendly.
Dirty Old Man: Downplayed. He obviously enjoys hanging around Penny more than the guys, but he isn't quite creepy about it.
Grumpy Old Man: Overall bitter about life and his age, not helped by Sheldon's obnoxiousness.
The Obi-Wan: Referenced by name, Sheldon tries to be strong about it like Luke but comes to realize via Proton as his Spirit Advisor that pushing away the people who care about him won't make it easier to deal with the death of loved ones.
Old Shame: invoked Has regrets over his career path after doing the show, while Leonard and Sheldon help him see many modern scientists were inspired by his work as kids.
Bill Nye: Wow, Arthur Jeffries. It's an honor to meet you. My show never would have happened without yours. Arthur Jeffries: That's what I told my lawyers.
Spirit Advisor: After he died, he showed up in Sheldon's dream. Both he and the manifestation of Arthur are trying to figure out what he must be coming back to help Sheldon with.
Stylistic Suck: His show was pretty silly, but it seemed a lot of its charm was how annoyed he was with the writing.
Played by Laura Spencer
Raj's love interest, starting Season 7.
Cute But Psycho: She's very lovely, but implied to be a psycho. She once remarked she became a dermatologist because it's a line of work where she's allowed to cut people. It could have been a morbid sense of humour, but it's a bit scary.
Forgotten First Meeting: She and Howard first met on a blind date. Apparently, Howard had a stomach problem that ended in her toilet being clogged, and him sneaking out the bathroom window in embarrassment. Thus, he was nicknamed "Clogzilla".