So as far as I understand 'to flee' is the verb, derivative noun from it is 'a flight' (as the process of running away), but what are the people who flee called? (And I don't mean cowards and other words of this kind.)

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    They’re flighty flying fleers. Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 18:11
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    It seems to me that fly can also mean flee, so it may make sense to call them flyers.
    – milestyle
    Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 18:35
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    @milestyle, sure, but nobody would really understand that they're fleeing - it would be assumed they were flying, right? Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 18:36
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    As a curiosity: the German word is Flüchtling, which in English would be *flightling Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 11:11
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    @JanusBahsJacquet Surely that would be fleet ones, for those who are not do not escape. :) “The fleet have fled.”
    – tchrist
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 0:29

7 Answers 7


Despite how weird or unglamorous, the word you are looking for is actually fleer. My dead-tree (thus not easily linkable) American Heritage Dictionary specifically lists it as a noun form at the end of its entry for flee.

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    Plus a note: I believe you pronounce this as "flee-er", it does not rhyme with "rear".
    – Izkata
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 19:34
  • My dead-tree Webster's New Collegiate agrees. Fleer also means "To laugh or grimace coarsely or scornfully; sneer; A word or look of derision or mockery." Fleers aren't in a position to fleer until they have safely fled.
    – ab2
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 21:48

Often 'refugee' may be a good noun to use when describing people who are fleeing.


How about fugitive? Here is how Encyclopédie Universelle defines that term:

a person who is fleeing, from prosecution, intolerable circumstances, etc.; a runaway: a fugitive from justice; a fugitive from a dictatorial regime.

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    "Fugitive" carries strong connotations of criminality. Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 20:41

Perhaps you could use escapee. Most nouns that mean to flee will carry strong connotations of something or another; it's just the nature of the game.


What about runner? The term is frequently used in popular media to identify one that flees. The website subzin lists at least 30 instances of the phrase “We have a runner.”


Flee is synonymous with hasten, also a verb. It is derived from the Old French word 'haste' a noun which means: "Energetic speed in motion or action, as from eagerness, fear, urgency of circumstances, etc." From that a person who hastens(flees) is a (hastener). Source: The New Century Dictionary of the English Language, D.Appleton-Century Co., New York-London, 1944, p.717

  • Despite the fact that flee and fleet come form the same proto-Indo-European root, flee is from Old English, fleet is from Old Norse, and flee hasn't meant hasten in English for well over 1000 years, if it ever did. Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 12:58

It may be, in yon smoke conceal'd,

Your comrades chase e'en now the fliers,

And, but for you, possess the field.

(A H Clough, 'Say not the struggle naught availeth')

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