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I just finished reading K-PAX and I'm looking for a noun to describe the main character prot, a compassionate being who helps people work through their issues. Idiomatically I might say prot leaves things better than he found them.

One word that came to mind is do-gooder, but this unfortunately has an informal, derogatory meaning.

A good opposite for my word is trouble-maker, someone who intentionally (and possibly habitually) stirs up trouble. So I also looked at peacemaker; the definitions I found, though, tend to relate this word more to settling interpersonal conflicts than personal, which is prot's specialty.

Words like humanitarian, philanthropist, and altruist capture the character's desired end-result well but have a more missional tone than what I'm looking for. Although prot was summoned here to help a specific man in need, his kindnesses to others appear secondary (like a hobby, almost) to his goals of researching Earth or waiting for a viable time to return to his home planet.

Is there a better word to describe what I see in prot?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Adjectives are:

Kindhearted - having a kind and sympathetic nature

Magnanimous - proceeding from or revealing generosity or nobility of mind, character, etc.

Noble - of an exalted moral or mental character or excellence: a noble thought. Synonyms: lofty, elevated, high-minded, principled; magnanimous; honorable, estimable, worthy, meritorious.

There are many other synonyms to these words that might suit your purpose:

considerate, altruistic, benevolent, ...

Just look any of these words up and the list grows.

Also, it's not true that words like humanitarian, philanthropist, and altruist are focused on specific missions or deeds of that nature. They can be used very broadly to describe a person's general character.

Nouns are:

Mensch

Someone who is responsible, has a sense of right and wrong and is the sort of person other people look up to. In English the word has come to mean "a good guy."

The example given seems to fit your description as a sort of "hobby":

"Roger is such a mensch. He often volunteers at the soup kitchen and helps people in the community."

Samaritan

(Short for Good Samaritan of biblical origin, Luke 10:30–37.) A person who gratuitously gives help or sympathy to those in distress.

Saint

Someone who is kind, generous or helpful

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Those are all fantastic words, but they're adjectives. But your point on altruist, etc. is well-taken. I may use one of those instead. –  dingo_dan Jul 14 '13 at 20:18
    
@dingo_dan You're right. I completely overlooked that. I have updated my answer with some nouns that should be helpful. –  Canis Lupus Jul 15 '13 at 21:57
    
+1 for ‘mensch’. Exactly the word I thought of when I read the description. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 15 '13 at 23:34
    
Looked mensch up in several different sources, and I really like the ties it has to responsibility and decency. Thanks! –  dingo_dan Jul 16 '13 at 22:41

Benevolent: Having a disposition to do good. Altruistic or charitable.

It comes from French "Bénévolant", declined from "Bienveillant", which can be understood as willing to do good. "Bien" can be translated to well or good. "Veillant" comes from the verb Vouloir that can be translated to will or want.

The word "Bénévolat" (volunteering) also comes from the same origin.

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Following benevolent led me to well-wisher, whose second definition here looks very close to what I'm looking for. I want a word that shows more action than wishing, but this is very close. Thanks! –  dingo_dan Jul 14 '13 at 20:24
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@dingo_dan The latin word "Benefacio" (well and do) would fit this description, but doesn't seem to have a one-word translation. There are however the words "Benefactor" or "Beneficient" that could be used to some extend, however the definitions have evolved to a slightly different direction. –  Kaivo Anastetiks Jul 14 '13 at 20:41
    
Yes! An English equivalent of Benefacio is what I'm looking for! I even considered mentioning someone who blesses [others' lives] in my question. And I ran into the same problem with benefactor typically meaning blessing only with gifts, instead of intangibles too. –  dingo_dan Jul 14 '13 at 21:11
    
@dingo_dan I believe using Latin words is accepted in formal writing, therefore the word "benefacio" could be used as is. I don't know any other alternative to this word. –  Kaivo Anastetiks Jul 14 '13 at 21:59

The phrase "fairy godmother" has some of the right connotations. "Guardian angel", also. Neither is perfect as they both can connote a longer-term bond between the parties.

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Perhaps just "angel". The adjective guardian seems to change the meaning almost directly away from what's desired. –  Ben Voigt Mar 27 at 16:40

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