I’m hoping for a single descriptive word for “people who have been taken advantage of”, but a shorter phrase would be ok.

These are people who now have a lack of trust and are in need of loyalty in their relationships.

  • 13
    Victim is the usual term; modified if necessary by a noun or adjective -- murder victim, shooting victim, fraud victim, etc. May 17, 2014 at 17:14
  • @Sam Washburn Are you looking for a noun or an adjective?
    – Elian
    May 17, 2014 at 17:37
  • @Elian A noun would be best. May 17, 2014 at 19:42
  • Those people are called people. The 99%. Huddled masses yearning to breathe free... ;-)
    – Drew
    May 19, 2014 at 1:46
  • What do you need this word for?
    – Kit Z. Fox
    May 19, 2014 at 14:14

14 Answers 14


A more decisive answer to your query might be exploited. For example:

Mr. X had very little knowledge about market prices and as such he was heavily exploited by the retailers.

  • 1
    These are all great answers, but exploited seemed like the best fit to me. Thanks! May 17, 2014 at 19:58

One of these might work:

dupe1 [doop, dyoop]

1. a person who is easily deceived or fooled; gull.

2. a person who unquestioningly or unwittingly serves a cause or another person: a dupe of the opponents.

verb (used with object), duped, dup·ing.

3. to make a dupe of; deceive; delude; trick.

2. a person who is deceived or cheated, as by his or her own emotions or ignorance, by the dishonesty of others, or by some impersonal agency: a victim of misplaced confidence; the victim of a swindler; a victim of an optical illusion.


It is a harsh term but I think the word I hear the most is sucker.


John gave his teenage daughter more money for clothes, he is such a sucker.

I am such a sucker, why would I ever believe that men want anything but sex.


A word usually carries certain implications with it. Your question seems to be searching for two distinct meanings.

  1. A word or phrase to identify "people who have been taken advantage of…" might be "dupe", "patsy", "stooge", "sucker", "fool", "fallen angel", "mark", "victim", etc.

  2. Someone who, by being duped in the past, is distrustful of others' intents might be a "cynic", a "hard-boiled egg", "doubting Thomas", "skeptic", "churl", "pessimist", "curmudgeon" etc.

And perhaps another for someone who needs loyalty in their relationships.

The word to be used depends on which meaning you want your audience to infer the most.


Hurt or damaged could be used in a relationship sense.

I’m sure damaging relationship is a fairly common term these days.


What comes to mind are such phrases as once bitten/burned, twice shy and a burnt child dreads the fire.

once bitten/burned, twice shy and a burnt child dreads the fire: something that you say which means that when you had an unpleasant experience you are much more careful to avoid such similar experiences in the future.

Alternately, consider victimized, used, put-upon, and suckered.

victimized; used; put-upon; (slang) suckered: (of persons) taken advantage of.

In the way of nouns, consider patsy and fall guy.

patsy: a person who is easily swindled, deceived, coerced, persuaded, etc.; sucker.

fall guy: an easy victim.


The accepted answer is good. But IMO "victimized" is as good, or perhaps an even better choice, because you added:

people who now have a lack of trust and are in need of loyalty in their relationships.

"Exploited" means some has been taken advantage of - "used" - but they are not necessarily aware of the fact, or see anything particularly wrong with it. On the contrary, "exploited" is usually used when the victims don't know they've been used and don't realize any wrong has been done. "Victimized" however, means exactly that - someone who has been made to suffer - been made into a victim.


Gudgeon: gudg·eon || 'gʌdʒən n. type of freshwater fish; gullible person, one who can be cheated easily; bait, lure

Gobemouche: n. (pl. gobemouches pronunc. same) a gullible listener.

  • 2
    These are very unusual terms to use. May 17, 2014 at 18:36
  • The question is "a single descriptive word for "people who have been taken advantage of'", and I cannot edit my answer according to a person's familiarity (nor, the fact that there is likely no other answer). Perhaps I am mistaken in that the mission of this site is to understand the English language, and the goal is truly to 'play idem per idem' game?
    – Third News
    May 17, 2014 at 18:47
  • 1
    Your posting is hopelessly mojibaked, probably because of Microsoft’s incompetence at character encodings, not your own. Still, please fix.
    – tchrist
    May 17, 2014 at 18:50
  • 3
    The goal is to make the English language accessible. That means preferring words that people actually use. Even if the goal were to introduce arcane words for the heck of it, though, these two wouldn't quite fit; "have been taken advantage of" and "can be taken advantage of" are two different things, particularly given the people the OP is trying to describe (who lack trust, making them more wary and less gullible).
    – cHao
    May 17, 2014 at 19:43
  • Good god...“people who have been taken advantage of” are gudgeoned and gobemouched. "English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's built and run by you as part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites. With your help, we're working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about English language and usage." I do not find my reply to be contradictory to the stated mission
    – Third News
    May 17, 2014 at 20:37

You could also go with "sucker" if you want to use a casual tone and to convey that they were exploited because of their own excessive credulity.


I think profit with the meaning “to derive advantage, to benefit from” can be used in that sense.

  • to profit from the weaknesses of others
  • He is a profiteer.

You might call them the damaged party.


A "tool" informally refers to someone who has been used without knowing it.

  • Your answer would be well-served with examples and, if possible, a citation.
    – choster
    May 18, 2014 at 15:04
  • I'm not so sure "tool" means "without knowing it" - I generally understand it to mean someone who's a "stooge", but they often know exactly what their position is, and they are consciously acting as a "tool", which is often quite a lucrative job... Am I wrong?
    – Vector
    May 19, 2014 at 1:38

Note that the choice of word will depend on how you want the reader to view the victims. Words like "dupe", "patsy" and "sucker" imply that the person was foolish. I hear 'sucker' used as an insult or taunt. Such words might be used by the perpetrators of a fraud to devalues their victims (the "marks") in their own eyes.

A word like victim or exploited is more neutral. They are not in some way to blame for their misfortune. The blame rests with the perpetrators.


As well as the terms sucker and mark already mentioned, a similar expression (which also denotes something like 'victim' or 'potential victim' among confidence tricksters, professional gamblers, etc.) is rube.

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