What do you call a person who always thinks that they're being used; a person who thinks that everyone else has an ulterior motive if someone asks them something?

For example, you might ask them if they want to go to the store with you, they'd immediately respond by saying "I'm not paying for anything!"

Or, if you ask them to hang out with you, they say "Do I look like an ATM to you? You're always trying to get me to spend money!"

This person doesn't give you a chance to finish your thoughts or intentions. They just assume that you want something from them.

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    I would probably call them paranoid, though I’m sure there are many people out there who would refer to such a person as a wife or husband. (Incidentally, please take the time to separate your post into paragraphs and punctuate it properly. The way it is currently written, it is very cumbersome to read.) Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 16:06
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    paranoid is too harsh. that implied delusional thinking - whereas this person may have had real instances of such occurrences.
    – kns98
    Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 16:25
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    @kns98 No, paranoid does not necessarily imply delusions. The narrower, clinical sense is much less common in actual language usage than the broader sense (sense 1.1): “Unreasonably or obsessively anxious, suspicious, or mistrustful”. I would certainly call a person such as this unreasonably suspicious/mistrustful. Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 16:44
  • As much-under-rated philosopher Mongo observes in impossible-to-over-rate Blazing Saddles, "Mongo only pawn in game of life". He knows perfectly well he's just being used by other people all the time, but he doesn't let this bother him. Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 17:12
  • From the two examples, cheap comes to mind, as does the more general term annoying. Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 20:02

5 Answers 5


The second definition of cynical describes this attitude:

2 : having or showing the attitude or temper of a cynic: as

a : contemptuously distrustful of human nature and motives <those cynical men who say that democracy cannot be honest and efficient — F. D. Roosevelt>

b : based on or reflecting a belief that human conduct is motivated primarily by self-interest <a cynical ploy to win votes>

(Source: Merriam-Webster)

So, you could say, "He is a cynic," or "He is cynical."


I think the best way to refer to them (politely) is guarded. (Cautious, reserved, suspicious - from various dictionaries.)


What springs to my mind are "tightwad" and "jerk".


Wary is a good word, but it's not being suspicious. I suggest leery, which means to be wary and suspicious. It checks off all the boxes.

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    – Community Bot
    Commented Jan 21 at 17:53

I would use 'stand offish' or confrontational. It seems like this person is protecting their territory.

  • Standoffish and confrontational are almost synonyms. While confrontational can certainly be used to describe such a person, it doesn’t really describe the suspiciousness behind the constant confrontationism—there are lots of other ways to be confrontational. And standoffish is not a word I can meaningfully apply to the kind of person described in the question at all. Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 16:41

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