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I’m trying to think of a word for somebody I’ve never met, but who has influenced me.

Like Steve Jobs, I’ve never met him, but he continues to teach me.

He’s like an invisible hand to me. An unmet teacher. I can’t nail the word down!

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You're saying he's a stranger? –  StoneyB Oct 5 '12 at 22:57
    
The title is completely misleading. Even the question is stated in reverse. –  Kris Oct 6 '12 at 6:09
    
It's actually not stated in reverse... Introduce problem, give an example, then state i can't figure it out. Seems like the normal question to me. Also, it's a concise title that is completely relative to my question. –  Rusty Schmidt Oct 7 '12 at 5:30

5 Answers 5

up vote 15 down vote accepted

There is also role model: a person looked to by others as an example to be imitated.

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Could you just go for the emotional component, and say that that man is an inspiration?

For my ears it's a broader word that better grabs the 'influence in some way' aspect of it all esp if you pair it with the "I've not met him" opening. For example:

I'm trying to think of a word for somebody I've never met, but who has influenced me.

Like Steve Jobs, I've never met him, but he continues to teach me.

He's like an invisible hand to me. An unmet teacher. An inspiration!

(gratuitous exclamation mark added for effect)

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I would use either role model or mentor.

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This answer can be improved by adding citations of reputable references. –  MετάEd Oct 6 '12 at 4:57
    
"Mentor" implies to me that it's someone you actually know personally. "Role model" seems to me the best answer here. –  Jay Oct 10 '12 at 14:11

While he is a stranger, he is also a mentor.

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That implies a more direct relationship, I think –  itsbruce Oct 5 '12 at 23:52
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In his book A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring, John Wooden say how his father, coaches, President Abraham Lincoln, and Mother Theresa all had a powerful influence on his life, coaching, philosophy, and outlook on life. He says that as individuals we can be mentored by the writings, words, and thoughts of people we have never and will likely never meet. Davis Lui MD, blog post on www.kevinmd.com, thanks one of his mentors, Steve Jobs. He says he has never met Steve Jobs. It seems as though a mentor can be someone we have not met or are unlikely to meet. –  Site Designs Oct 6 '12 at 0:27
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The fact that John Wooden has to make that point simply proves that he is stretching the word beyond its common usage. –  itsbruce Oct 6 '12 at 10:28
    
@SiteDesigns: That's a good comment. In the future, I'd recommend adding that sort of thing to your answer. –  J.R. Oct 6 '12 at 18:48

I know what you mean, I think. It's elusive, though.

Paragon?

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Seems like a good choice –  Rusty Schmidt Oct 5 '12 at 22:51
    
Gosh, I wonder who voted that down? Can't think at all... –  itsbruce Oct 5 '12 at 23:51
    
Don't worry, best answer wins. –  Rusty Schmidt Oct 6 '12 at 0:43
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Paragon implies nothing whatsoever about whether you've met the person or not. In fact, I can't think of an interpretation that makes it an appropriate answer to this question. –  Marthaª Oct 6 '12 at 1:33
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But it's much better than, say, mentor or teacher. It's used similarly to role model, but with the added sense that they're more than just a personal inspiration, but that they exemplify the highest quality of a certain characteristic. It also carries some of the larger-than-life, admired-from-afar aspect that the OP asked for. If this person were an excellent moral compass or engineer, it would be valid to call them a paragon of morality or a paragon of engineering just as much as a role model! –  rsegal Oct 6 '12 at 3:45

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