This paper sets out the theoretical foundation of emotional intelligence (EI) as a constellation of traits and self-perceived abilities. The discriminant validity of trait EI is explored in two studies. In study 1 (N = 227), the psychometric properties of the BarOn Emotional Quotient inventory were scrutinized through confirmatory factor analysis and the measure was found to be unifactorial. When the EQ-i was examined concurrently with the Eysenck Personality Profiler, a clear trait EI factor emerged in Eysenckian factor space. In study 2 (N = 166), a modified version of the EQ-i was examined concurrently with the NEO PI-R and a truncated trait EI factor was isolated within the Five-Factor Model. Results are discussed with explicit reference to established personality models and it is concluded that trait EI can be conceptualized as a distinct composite construct at the primary level of hierarchical trait structures. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.