I'm not asking "what do you call a person with a problem". It's close, but the question there is too broad for what I'm looking for.

I'm trying to describe a Superman-esque character, where this character is good at everything but has one flaw. The word superman doesn't work because it doesn't make people think of a flawed person, and I need this word to mean something like "a flawed individual". And saying "a flawed individual" doesn't get across how perfect the character is outside of their flaw. Someone told me I wanted the term "tragic hero" but I'm looking for a word for someone who's good at everything except one thing, not really someone destined for failure. But that's close... I just don't particularly need a "fatal flaw".

As an example of what I'm looking for, imagine two people were talking about Tom Cruise, in a conversation like this:

A: Tom Cruise is great. I love all of his movies, he's generous, he's [list of positive traits].

B: Yeah, too bad he's crazy.

How could a third person say "He's perfect except in one area" in one word or phrase?

C: Tom Cruise is [word].

A: What? He's great in movies, he's funny, he's [list of positive traits]. He's perfect! What could possibly be wrong with him?

C: ...He's crazy.

B: Exactly.

It doesn't have to fit this sentence structure.

Tom Cruise is not perfect in the slightest.

  • 4
    If the flaw is potentially the character's undoing, it could be the 'Achilles heel'.
    – toandfro
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 21:42
  • 14
    Why not flawed?
    – bib
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 21:45
  • Or fatally flawed?
    – bib
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 22:19
  • Agree with bib. You can call him a flawed hero. Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 22:42
  • Human :P Incomplete?
    – J-Cake
    Commented May 1, 2020 at 14:04

4 Answers 4


I don't know of a phrase where someone can so generically point out a flaw. In your example, I'd say human - nobody is perfect. Perhaps his weakness or limitation would fit here.

There are words for dramatic flaws.

An Achilles heel: a portion, spot, area, or the like, that is especially or solely vulnerable. It does not need to lead to his downfall; it connotes someone who is pretty damned perfect except for this one thing. "Tom Cruise has an Achilles heel" would be understood that way.

His Achilles heel is his quick temper.

Shortcoming, or foible would be understood as an understatement; if he's crazy, that's a major problem; to call it a foible before stating the flaw would be mildly sarcastic.

A tragic flaw in drama is a failing of character in the hero (someone of high repute/honor/etc.) of a tragedy that brings about his downfall. Regarding Hamlet:

He has exceptional qualities like graceful personality and popularity among his country that is eminent. His tragic flaw is his delay in action and irresolution...

Other expressions for this are simply flawed, or inadequacy.

  • 1
    Foible is what I'm looking for! Tom Cruise was a bad example, but this person has been describing all his characters by using movie stars... it's really difficult to think of examples outside of celebrities after reading about how alike Tom Cruise someone is for twenty pages or so. Now I can finish reviewing this thing though, thank you!
    – Ice-9
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 0:57
  • came here to say "human". imperfect is also good. terms with negative connotations include lacking, flawed, defective
    – michael
    Commented Apr 29, 2020 at 16:08

Tom Cruise is just ... "imperfect," like all we humans are.

  • Unfortunately, defective is also an offensive term for someone with a severe physical or mental disability, so I don't think it would be appropriate to apply to a person in this context. Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 3:27
  • @NateEldredge Yes, it is an offensive term if used specifically. But, the primary meaning of "defective" doesn't carry any offensive connotation to my ear.
    – Elian
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 3:36

I would use the term "Flawed genius ".

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