English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

If I grant someone a Boon, I am granting them a temporary positive effect. If I were to grant someone a temporary negative effect, what would an adequate word to describe that be?

I was initially drawn to Bane, as it's another four-letter B-word, with a negative connotation, but I'm not sure if the two terms are inherently equitable. Is this an appropriate usage of Bane? Is there a better word entirely?

share|improve this question
Some quick answers can be found here: thesaurus.com/browse/boon – MrHen Apr 4 '14 at 14:43
Quite apart from what thing they end up with, I would certainly advise against using the verb grant. Granting someone a bust/vice/nerf/whatever sounds most peculiar, like bestowing bankruptcy on someone, awarding them a headache, or conferring dishonour on them. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 12 '14 at 22:50
Just a side-note: A boon is not necessarily temporary. :) – Moo-Juice Sep 11 '15 at 10:11
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Have you considered drain, blight, or affliction?

Bane seems okay to me, but I also like drain as in:

"The water was a boon to their morale, but the heat remained a drain on their physical state."

share|improve this answer
I like blight, especially for being another B – Mynamite Apr 4 '14 at 18:49
Mmm. Blight is good! – Raven Dreamer Apr 4 '14 at 21:03

In team-based videogames where support characters can provide these and their antitheses to other characters, they are usually referred to as 'buffs' [+] and 'nerfs' [-]. Personally, I think the word you are looking for is more like a hindrance, penalty, handicap or weakness. 'Bane' in that sense also works, as you said; dictionary.com gives us

[...] a thing that causes misery or distress [...]

I'm not sure how close that is to the context you're using, though. That may be too negative.

share|improve this answer
I'd actually refer to them as "Debuffs" in game. "Nerfs" are something that happen only in patch notes. – Raven Dreamer Apr 4 '14 at 15:05
Fair point there. I guess that's the designer in me getting out. I don't suppose there's such a thing as a 'deboon' (not getting any hits for that or other prefixed terms like 'im- or unboon', ha). In addition to my suggestions, you could, however, use impairment or drawback. – NinjaDuckie Apr 4 '14 at 15:09

In what context are you going to use the word?

I would say "to bestow a curse on someone", or "to hex someone"

share|improve this answer
I am hoping to use the term to categorize a group of related effects that are both negative in effect and posses a finite (and limited) duration. The latter criteria is why I'm leery of Curse, Hex, and Jinx. – Raven Dreamer Apr 4 '14 at 14:54

There's an expression, "Boon or Bust" that loosely means to hope for the boon or go bust trying. This was used in the gold rush days of the old west (in the US). In more modern times, it's more commonly known as "Boom or Bust" (though there are still many references to "Boon and Bust" or "Boon or Bust") and it's an economic concept, as defined in this Investopedia article:

Definition of 'Boom And Bust Cycle'

A process of economic expansion and contraction that occurs repeatedly. The boom and bust cycle is a key characteristic of today’s capitalist economies. During the boom the economy grows, jobs are plentiful and the market brings high returns to investors. In the subsequent bust the economy shrinks, people lose their jobs and investors lose money. Boom-bust cycles last for varying lengths of time; they also vary in severity.

share|improve this answer
"Boom and bust" is preferred in the US, whereas "boon and bust" is primarily the European construction. – jboneca Apr 4 '14 at 14:51
Actually, the historic term seems to be boom, not boon, as illustrated by this ngram – bib Apr 4 '14 at 14:52
Although this is a good general definition of "boon or bust" I don't feel like it answers the question, since Raven wanted "a temporary negative effect" and "putting a bust on" someone sounds completely wrong. – Digital Chris Apr 4 '14 at 14:53
@bib, "boom or bust" is definitely the preferred expression based on the ngram but "boon or bust" is represented also, so it's known, just less used. – Kristina Lopez Apr 4 '14 at 15:08
@jboneca, FWIW, I'm in the US and I know the expression as "boon or bust". – Kristina Lopez Apr 4 '14 at 15:09

Perhaps demerit

a fault or disadvantage

share|improve this answer
Isn't 'demerit' usually used to define a poor mark on a test (esp. driving) rather than a negative effect? – NinjaDuckie Apr 4 '14 at 14:57
@NinjaDuckie It is often a negative mark used to determine punishment or negative outcomes (Three demerits and you are suspended!). I am not clear as to exactly what temporary negative effect means. – bib Apr 4 '14 at 14:59

How about a vice?

A vice is typically taken to mean a bad habit that is to one's own detriment, but given context, could mean anything that is to other's detriment. For example as you might say:

It was a real boon to us, that our new housemate Sally was a former top chef.

you could say:

Jim's ongoing affliction became a real vice to us.

share|improve this answer
That's not sounding like a "vice", more like a detriment. Smoking's a vice, for example, so how is Jim's ongoing affliction the group's collective vice? – Kristina Lopez Oct 13 '14 at 0:31

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.