What is a Control Freak? Definition and Examples

Control Freak Meaning

Definition: A person who tries to control everything around him or her.

This is not a polite thing to call someone, so do not use it in formal or academic settings. You also shouldn’t use it in conversational settings unless you want to offend the person you are calling a control freak.

Origin of Control Freak

This expression usually describes someone who is obsessive about having things done a certain way. A control freak becomes upset when someone or something causes a deviation in the way that he or she likes things done.

It can also describe a person who tries to make others do things the way that he or she wants, even if the other people prefer to do it another way, and even if the initial person has no good reason for interfering.

This expression first appeared around the 1970s. The word freak by itself is a rude name for a person with a physical abnormality or who is strange or creepy. Describing someone as a freak is similar to calling someone a monster. For that reason, control freak is very rude. It implies that the person’s need to control others is so strong that the person is an aberration.

Examples of Control Freak

define control freakIn this dialogue, a brother and sister are trying to tidy up their house before their parents come over for dinner.

Maria: I’ll set the table, and you can vacuum the house.

Franco: Okay, that’s fine. Hey! You can’t set the table with that tablecloth. Use this one instead.

Maria: Okay, sure. Now go vacuum and let me do this myself.

Franco: Fine, fine. But wait, you’re doing it all wrong. You need to put the fork on this side and the spoon over here.

Maria: I know how to do it! Just leave me alone and focus on your own chore.

Franco: I will, but first—

Maria: No! Stop being such a control freak. You don’t have time to prepare everything yourself, so you’re just going to have to trust me to do a good job.

control freak definitionThe second example shows two university students discussing the third person in their group project.

Lorenzo: I can’t stand having Archie in our group. He’s such a control freak!

Alba: I know! He won’t let us choose the topic for our presentation, do the research, write the paper, or even choose the font!

More Examples

The excerpt below is about the autobiography of Bruce Springsteen.

  • There are 79 chapters in “Born to Run,” and while that number may simply be a coincidence, there is little evidence that Springsteen — a control freak if there ever was one — leaves these things to happenstance. It’s only a guess, but 79 is the lifespan of the average American male. –Denver Post

This excerpt is from a review of a movie.

  • Harriet, we soon learn, deserves her solitude. She’s a hard and petty woman, a control freak who berates her gardener for not knowing the proper way to trim the hedges and elbows the cook out of the way in the kitchen. –Chicago Sun Times


The term control freak is a rude name to call someone who wants to exert power over everything they come into contact with.