I'm looking for a noun to embody the adjectives "unfeeling" and "heartless" the same way Philistine embodies "uncivilized" and "crude".

I'm looking for something a bit more tactful than say, "a cold-hearted bastard", which is all I've been able to come up with so far.

Does such a word exist?

11 Answers 11


I am not sure if it captures the tone you want, but automaton means

someone who behaves like a machine and shows no feelings [Macmillan]

Such a person lacks joy, enthusiasm and sorrow, as well as compassion.

Also consider brute

A cruel, unpleasant, or insensitive person: what an unfeeling little brute you are [ODO]

  • Personally, I have never heard automation used to describe a type of person. If someone is robotic they can be described as an automation in a somewhat humorous fashion don't get me wrong, but Philistine is obviously a human being where as an automation is, first and foremost, a literal machine. For that reason I don't think automation fits OP's logic as well as another word could.
    – Starkers
    Jul 27, 2014 at 23:12
  • @Starkers I think the more common usage is in the phrase like an automaton. This ngram shows such usage.
    – bib
    Jul 28, 2014 at 1:06
  • 8
    @Starkers - you keep inserting an i compared to the word bib offered - automaton and automation are two different words. Jul 28, 2014 at 6:22
  • brute is normally used to imply a lack of reason - which seems almost the opposite of what's intended.
    – Aaronaught
    Jul 28, 2014 at 16:34
  • 1
    @Aaronaught Brute is often used when there is a perceived intent to be unpleasant. But it is also used where the actor appears to lack sensibilities. What the OP intends is a bit unclear.
    – bib
    Jul 28, 2014 at 17:39

Vulcan parallels Philistine well because it too is the name of a race, albeit a fictional one. In Star Trek, Vulcans are known for rejecting emotion in favor of logic. The term has been adopted into geek, nerd, and Trekkie slang to refer to someone heartless, cold, and logical.

"She's a Vulcan who never cries when the dog dies at the end of a movie."

"You've always had a Vulcan attitude, so I'm sure your attachments won't influence your decision unduly."

  • 2
    Requires some geekery knowledge (or more specifically Star Trek knowledge), but +1 even so. Has what I think of as just the right feel to it. Very evocative, like Philistine. Jul 28, 2014 at 9:39
  • Vulcans aren't heartless, however, in that they are not cruel, avaricious, etc, despite their cold logic. Roddenberry was trying to balance the raw, emotional, intuition-filled James T. Kirk with his opposite, but only a Vulcan/Human mix like Spock would be believable. Even Sarek, Spock's father, had a thread of humanity. After all, Mark Lenard and Leonard Nimoy are only (hee hee) human actors.
    – IconDaemon
    Jul 28, 2014 at 15:00
  • Perhaps an even better parallel, sans geekery, would be stoic (definition). Jul 28, 2014 at 15:55

Monster comes to mind. It is a noun which is used figuratively to describe a cruel person and it covers the adjectives unfeeling and heartless.

someone who is very cruel

He's a heartless, unfeeling monster.

Source: http://www.macmillandictionary.com

Also, robot is used figuratively to describe a person who seems to have no feelings or emotions.


Although a bit clinical, 'sociopath' is a possible choice. There are various degrees of sociopathy, from extreme behavior that drives young men to shoot and kill children in schools and movie theatres, for example; to milder behavior which make a person unfeeling and heartless. (Note: I'm not a psychiatrist, so take what I've written with a grain of salt.)

  • 1
    ...nor a sociopath, we take it? Another grain of salt is added ;)
    – Engineer
    Jul 28, 2014 at 14:27
  • I'm as sane as can be in this crazy world. :-]
    – IconDaemon
    Jul 28, 2014 at 14:36
  • 1
    – mskfisher
    Jul 28, 2014 at 17:40
  • That does not compute.
    – IconDaemon
    Jul 28, 2014 at 20:00

I think rat can also convey the idea ( animal personification):

  • a person who deserts his or her friends or associates, esp in time of trouble

  • a despicable person.

Source: Collins English Dictionary



Utilitarian - One who upholds Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism - A theory in normative ethics holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes utility, usually defined as maximizing total benefit and reducing suffering or the negatives...

Utilitarianism can be characterized as a quantitative and reductionist approach to ethics. It is a type of naturalism. It can be contrasted with deontological ethics, which does not regard the consequences of an act as a determinant of its moral worth; virtue ethics, which primarily focuses on acts and habits leading to happiness; pragmatic ethics; as well as with ethical egoism and other varieties of consequentialism.

In an image:

I say old bean - I say old bean, why don't we simply work the poor to death?

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utilitarianism

Read more (a lot more): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_Times

  • 3
    I think you have misunderstood Utilitarianism. Jul 28, 2014 at 8:52
  • 2
    I know you have misunderstood Utilitarianism. The image caption is at odds with your own quote usually defined as maximizing total benefit and reducing suffering. Maximizing total benefit would be helping both the rich and the poor and by no means includes working someone to death. Your image caption instead describes objectification of people as fungible resources and exploitation by means of power and wealth. Hard Times is literature and satire at that. From the wiki article you link "Dickens wished to satirise radical Utilitarians."
    – Patrick M
    Jul 28, 2014 at 18:00
  • To the question, yes Utilitarianism can lead to undervaluing emotion and sentiment. In many moral dilemmas, this view could result in sacrificing the few to save the many, but this is a long step away from exploiting many (e.g. 49% of people) to benefit the slightly-more-many (e.g. 51% of people). In point of fact, the poor outnumber the wealthy both in Hard Times' setting and in present day, making it clear that anyone who actually fits Dickens' caricature of utilitarians has twisted the ethics to suit their own reasons and desires.
    – Patrick M
    Jul 28, 2014 at 18:08

I think story book characters such as The Grinch and Scrooge may carry enough recognition to describe someone in this way.

I should comment that both are likely attached to memories of Christmas and Scrooge also carries connotations of 'tight with money', though you could lead off with either if you're going to elaborate.

Additionally, some other suggestions that may fit:

And the simple and flexible heartless which can be used both lightheartedly and critically.

There are many similar words shown as synonyms for these, I've only listed the ones that I would probably use.

  • While cold blooded and inhumane are the direction I'm aiming for, I was more interested in nouns that would help personify these adjectives.
    – RedRiderX
    Jul 28, 2014 at 1:15

Try sociopath: No feelings, no empathy. (But good for Wall St!)


Nouns such as robot, machine, and automaton could work, though I think I have seen adjectives used in this situation more commonly.

People like that can often described as cold, sometimes frosty or icy. For example:

Don't go looking to Bob for sympathy, he's just cold.

Using frosty:

Steve's frosty persona allowed him to sit through the saddest movies with completely dry eyes.

There's also the female-specific term Ice Queen:

I know you think you got that answer right, but there's no point in asking Mrs. Tinklebottom to change your mark; she's a total Ice Queen.

Oddly enough, I don't think I've ever heard a male-specific equivalent, such as Ice King, although I'm not sure why. I supposes you could try to use snowman as the male-specific equivalent, but people might think of Frosty the Snowman who was not unfeeling or heartless.


A cold fish is someone who is unfeeling, unsympathetic, aloof, and reserved past the point where it is rude.

The term is more tactful than cold-hearted bastard, but not by much. It's informal, but acceptable in polite company.


Barbarian -- one who is barbaric / engages in barbaric acts. This fits in the sense that like Philistine, it is also derived from the name of an historical nation. Of course its meaning has become quite diluted over time.

Boor -- is a remote possibility, though it tends to denote a certain uncouthness and lack of social graces rather than an out-and-out lack of feeling. Still, a possibility, and also derived from a nation / group of people (Dutch farmers of olden times).

Cutthroat -- one who is willing to cruelly and mercilessly take from others in order to forward their own agendas.

Butcher -- connotations to this one are quite clear.

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