What do you call a person who is not very careful by nature, one who is constantly breaking things, missing appointments, stumbling into walls, and things like that?

Hopefully not too harsh a name, as if we find it funny.

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    You may want to check out this answer for good similar words and expressions! english.stackexchange.com/questions/60299/… – Kristina Lopez Feb 21 '13 at 15:02
  • "Mark", unfortunately. :) – Mark Allen Feb 21 '13 at 20:27
  • "An accident waiting to happen". – Phil Sweet Dec 4 '16 at 0:38
  • Clouseau-like. – Hot Licks Dec 4 '16 at 0:45
  • @HotLicks Quite so. Somehow Steve Martin never managed to capture the Gallic tomfoolery of the character that Peter Sellers made his own. Ditto for Sean Connery and his cohort of wannabee 007's. – Peter Point Dec 4 '16 at 6:14

There's many.

The person is Clumsy or a Klutz or bumbling.

See here for more synonyms.


Consider using something simple like accident-prone, absent-minded, or careless. Maybe they’re just forgetful, but there’s also inattentive, preoccupied, or scatterbrained. For meetings and such, they could be said to be unreliable or undependable.

Those aren’t as strong as an elephant/bull in a china shop or a walking disaster, or even an accident waiting to happen.

If it approaches the criminality of wanton disregard, it might even be negligent.

From Yiddish we get a whole host of “oopsy” words, like klutz and klutzy, or a schlep, a shlemiel, or a shlemazel. Those all have different connotations.

Some of those don’t sound too mean, but others do. For someone who always has their head in the clouds, you might also go for airhead or space cadet, or perhaps bumbler.

  • +1 for "space cadet", my favorite. We used to call someone a "Mr. Magoo" from the cartoon character but that has fallen into disfavor since Mr. Magoo's poor eyesight was the cause of his frequent accidents. – Kristina Lopez Feb 21 '13 at 15:48
  • +1 for a lot of these, but -1 for "schlep". "schlep" is basically synony,ous with "haul" - eg, "I hauled a pile of textbooks", or "It was a long haul, to pick him up." – hunter2 Jul 16 '13 at 7:58
  • @hunter2, that's when it's a verb. As a noun, it is (also) a shortened form of ‘schlepper’. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 2 '13 at 8:45
  • @JanusBahsJacquet The usage I indicated includes the noun form ("You went up the mountain? What a schlep!"). I don't think I've heard it the way you (and tchrist) suggest - and being a "schlepper" would, to me, just mean being 'one who schleps' - like hotel porters. Doesn't necessarily mean you're wrong, but I've never heard your version. – hunter2 Oct 4 '13 at 5:08

"Butterfingers" is a descriptive but forgiving word, and it usually makes people smile in nostalgia, as one doesn't hear it much anymore.

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    +1, but this is especially for dropping/fumbling clumsiness, rather than walking into things or the more figurative clumsiness or absent-mindedness that the question was also interested in. – Chris H Sep 9 '13 at 10:07

I would call him a goof, or goofball. OALEG defines 'goof' as "verb, noun, (informal especially AmE) (a person) to make a stupid mistake". A hacker, jackass, and goonie could be alternatives.

There is an example - 'It’s OK. You’re a Goonie and Goonie, always make mistakes. Just don’t make any more mistake,' in my word collection.

By the way, When I was working in the Tokyo office of a New York-based ad agency, my boss, who was American, used to call one of my colleagues a “goof,” and tutted when he was out of sight. The “goof” was serious and good-hearted, but prone to forget his assignment, and schedule and made mistakes that outraged his clients many times. He made many mistakes, but wasn't stupid.

The ‘goof’ eventually became the general manager of the Tokyo branch of a multi-national ad agency after I retired from the office.


There was another word you may be looking for in the following sentence in the article titled, “That’s not amore,” in NYT Oct. 1 issue:

“The Speaker, John Boehner as he picks at his sausage, eggs and rye toast, his headaches. “Boy, I really gotta start wondering if it’s worth it,” he muses. “I’m being led around by the nose by goofballs like Michele Bachmann, Ted Cruz and Louie Gohmert when all I wanna do is wield my really big gavel — right on the heads of a couple of these ding-dongs.”

  • "Goof" captures the 'funny'/'not-too-serious' tone well, but I think some of the other answers (esp. "klutz" (note, the 'u' is pronounced as in 'uh' or 'um')) better fit the physically clumsy aspect. – hunter2 Jul 16 '13 at 8:01

I have heard such a person referred to as a *(walking) disaster area.

Longman says:

walking disaster area - someone who always drops things, has accidents, makes mistakes, etc. – used humorously


Appearing to be "not very careful", to be clumsy, as well as forgetful or disorganised can be symptoms of dyspraxia (adj.: dyspraxic). Dyspraxia is a condition, as opposed to simply being occasionally clumsy.

Developmental dyspraxia is an impairment or immaturity of the organisation of movement. It is an immaturity in the way that the brain processes information, which results in messages not being properly or fully transmitted. The term dyspraxia comes from the word praxis, which means 'doing, acting'. Dyspraxia affects the planning of what to do and how to do it. It is associated with problems of perception, language and thought.

Dyspraxia is thought to affect up to ten per cent of the population and up to two per cent severely. Males are four times more likely to be affected than females. Dyspraxia sometimes runs in families. There may be an overlap with related conditions.

Other names for dyspraxia include Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD), Perceptuo-Motor Dysfunction, and Motor Learning Difficulties. It used to be known as Minimal Brain Damage and Clumsy Child Syndrome.

(UK Dyspraxia Foundation)

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    lmao? The OP is looking for a mild and funny pejorative ;) – coleopterist Feb 21 '13 at 16:32

In dear old Blighty, the sort of putz that the OP has in mind would most likely be called a cack-handed person. It's a bit clunky to read, but the word sounds vaguely chuckle-inducing to me.

Cack-handed: British, informal: "Inept, clumsy." (Oxford Dictionary)


A Putz is a fool or idiot. One can also be Putzing around. It literally means "dick or "penis" in Yiddish, so it both sounds funny and also has an entymology related to genetailia.

In regional English, I have heard such a person also called a Dildo or Ding-Dong

Related to this concept of fool-as-phallus is the Wanker or Jerk-Off

  • "Dildo?" Ah, keeping it within the family name, I see. Anyways, put it away, there's a policeman coming. – Peter Point Dec 4 '16 at 3:14
  • I guess OED has a secondary definition of dildo as 'vulgar slan.' – Geoff_Clapp Dec 4 '16 at 3:25
  • **'vulgar slang for "A stupid or ridiculous person – Geoff_Clapp Dec 4 '16 at 3:27
  • 'Moi?' Stupid or ridiculous? Perish the thought! – Peter Point Dec 4 '16 at 3:40
  • Also, Wanker or Jerk-Off. I am adding them to my post now. – Geoff_Clapp Dec 4 '16 at 4:08

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