I want one word which best suits a person who does not take risks (or one who does not like taking risks).

  • Welcome to ELU. I suggest cautious; circumspect; risk-averse. Those may not quite fit, but you can probably look up synonyms which may be better.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Feb 1, 2013 at 8:55

6 Answers 6


There's the relatively new term, found in psychology, business, economics, politics, etc. risk averse.

If you want to cast the tendency in a very negative light, there is coward and a great many colloquial and slang terms along that line, some of which are offensive (chicken, yellow, pussy, pusillanimous, chicken-shit).

More neutral, and less jargon-ish than risk averse, would be cautious, wary, timid.

More positive would be judicious, prudent.

  • prudent would get my vote. Commented Feb 1, 2013 at 9:18
  • 2
    Changed "adverse" to "averse". Commented Feb 1, 2013 at 9:37
  • +1 for writing pusillanimous and chicken shit in the same sentence.
    – terdon
    Commented Feb 1, 2013 at 10:21
  • Thanks @RussellMcMahon though you missed where I repeated the mistake (make a mistake once and it's easy to keep doing it), fixed now.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Feb 1, 2013 at 10:29
  • 2
    @terdon if you ever want to vocally call someone a coward, I strongly recommend using pusillanimous and chicken-shit in the same noun phrase; there's a quality to the gestalt of "You pusillanimous chicken-shit!" that neither word has on its own.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Feb 1, 2013 at 10:32

pru·dent /ˈpro͞odnt/ Adjective Acting with or showing care and thought for the future. Synonyms cautious - discreet - wary - careful - circumspect

cau·tious /ˈkôSHəs/ Adjective Attentive to potential problems or dangers. (of an action) Characterized by such an attitude. Synonyms wary - careful - prudent - circumspect - chary - discreet

and my personal favourite

cir·cum·spect /ˈsərkəmˌspekt/ Adjective Wary and unwilling to take risks. Synonyms cautious - wary - prudent - careful - discreet

  • +1. I like "cautious". But I haven't heard "circumspect" being used to mean specifically avoiding risks. I thought it was more to do with making well-considered decisions. What dictionary did you use? Commented Jun 29, 2013 at 13:17
  • I used the broadest dictionary I know: I googled "circumspect definition", which gave me Web definitions from Dictionary.com, Answers.com, Merriam-Webster, The Free Dictionary, and others.
    – Corina
    Commented Jun 29, 2013 at 13:38

If you are referring to someone who does not take risks because they are very careful in making decisions or in dealing with anything, you could consider 'meticulous', too.

  • 2
    Sky divers tend to be extremely meticulous when it comes to their parachutes, but aren't normally considered disinclined to take risks. Certainly one reason to be meticulous is to reduce certain risks (those caused by carelessness), but it does nothing to reduce other risks, and is not the sole reason for being meticulous (pride in a craft would be a strong reason, not much related to risk, as would sheer enjoyment of a task which would have no connection to risk at all).
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Feb 1, 2013 at 12:16
  • @JonHanna: Point taken. But if one wishes not to take risks, one has to be meticulous. And the one who is meticulous, often avoids risks. So I believe, 'meticulous' does have something to do with not taking risks.
    – user32480
    Commented Feb 1, 2013 at 14:48

You could call such a person a pussyfooter who would be someone who acts "in a cautious or non-committal way". He/she would also be considered conservative or simply defensive.


The first answer I thought of (and before reading Andrew Leach's comment) is risk-adverse, which would seem to fit your definition exactly.

  • * risk-averse Commented Jan 8, 2023 at 18:11

Scaredy cat n. Informal One who is excessively fearful.

When I was a girl attending a London school way back in the mid-70s, the kids used to play a game called "Dare" or a similar name, basically you dared your mate to do something really hard and/or shameful. For example, boys were often challenged to go into the girls' toilets, in those day the buildings were adjacent to the school playground, so everyone could see. If they refused, everyone would chant: "scaredy cat, scaredy cat". I don't remember the tune any more but I remember the scorching humiliation whenever I refused a "dare"...

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