I am looking for a single noun to describe someone that you have come within 5 feet of or so, or have seen, or have crossed paths with.

The closest terms I can think of are passer-by or stranger. You may or may not know them, so stranger is not a good fit. Is there a better word than passer-by?

Why the question? I am building an app that detects other mobile devices using Bluetooth, and I need a name for the collection of these people. Initially, I was considering nearbyUsers or nearbyPeople, but once they go out of range they are no longer nearby.

What are they?

  • I suppose they're not a passer-by until they've passed and perhaps you don't want to imply they're already gone. The problem is these words describe state, and the state changes. Couldn't they just be users who have changing state, i.e. 'nearby' or 'passed by' or 'not encountered'? Instead of users you could maybe use the name of your app, as someone who uses Twitter is a tweeter.
    – silves89
    Aug 15, 2014 at 9:32
  • tough one! it's hard making up words for that in programming. with the code base, I would use something multi-word, that is crystal-clear, like say previouslyNearUsers or nowOrPreviouslyNearby. I'd probably go with nowOrPreviouslyNearby. If you mean for the users to read you're going to have to say something like: "Currently near:" and "Recently near:"
    – Fattie
    Aug 15, 2014 at 10:40
  • I would buy your app if only you'd describe them as area man :)
    – Dan Bron
    Aug 15, 2014 at 11:06
  • I actually really like passer-by for this usage.
    – Carolyn
    Aug 20, 2014 at 1:49
  • I would call them passe. ;)
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 17, 2018 at 22:32

4 Answers 4


I really, really want you to describe these people as

Area Man

for people still nearby,

Area man likes that band you just got into

Area woman potential future wife


Missed Connections

for those have walked off, into the night.

Missed connection: the guy who would have opened whole new worlds of music to you

Missed connection: the only woman you would have ever loved.


For the sake of providing an answer,

If you mean for the users to read you're going to have to use labels like:

"Currently near:"
"Recently near:"

Note that it's very, very common in UI to use "groups" of descriptions, to give more meaning, while using many fewer words. You know what I mean?

Indeed you could have something like:

~~ Nearby users: ~~
Right now:
Up to 10 minutes ago: < list >
Up to 1 hour ago: < list >

or alternately

~~ Nearby users: ~~
Right now: < list >
Recently: < list >

Try to say exactly what you mean:

You are near right now:
< list >
You have recently been near:
< list >

Or, it may be you mean this:

You are standing near:
< list >
You recently walked past:
< list >

and so on.


for the name of such app: BrushBy TFD

from the idiom brush by

  • or even BlueLight! clever huh? ps ... there are a couple of apps already out there that do similar.
    – lbf
    Apr 17, 2018 at 22:40

Would something like CloseEncounters work?

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