In mathematics, a character is (most commonly) a special kind of function from a group to a field (such as the complex numbers). There are at least two distinct, but overlapping meanings. Other uses of the word "character" are almost always qualified.
A multiplicative character (or linear character, or simply character) on a group G is a group homomorphism from G to the multiplicative group of a field (Artin 1966), usually the field of complex numbers. If G is any group, then the set Ch(G) of these morphisms forms an abelian group under pointwise multiplication.
This group is referred to as the character group of G. Sometimes only unitary characters are considered (thus the image is in the unit circle); other such homomorphisms are then called quasi-characters. Dirichlet characters can be seen as a special case of this definition.
In general, the trace is not a group homomorphism, nor does the set of traces form a group. The characters of one-dimensional representations are identical to one-dimensional representations, so the above notion of multiplicative character can be seen as a special case of higher-dimensional characters. The study of representations using characters is called "character theory" and one-dimensional characters are also called "linear characters" within this context.