What is the most appropriate (single word) noun to describe someone who is manipulative? That is, in the sense of manipulating people in a negative context.


In the original discussion from which this question arose, we rejected manipulator on the grounds that it felt too much to apply to someone manipulating objects rather than people. (That is of course, just opinion.)

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  • 4
    A manipulator? – WS2 Jan 15 '15 at 23:25
  • 2
    That has the feeling they are manipulating things rather than people. – Kieran Hunt Jan 15 '15 at 23:25
  • 1
    manipulative is usually not used in the context of things, where dextrous would fit better. – Martin Krzywinski Jan 15 '15 at 23:28
  • 4
    Anything they want you to. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 15 '15 at 23:39
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    A user. Yes it has other meanings. Context always helps. – pazzo Jan 15 '15 at 23:44

... most appropriate (single word) noun...

Schemer offers more negative implications:


A person who is involved in making secret or underhand plans.

Vincent Drucci became known as The Schemer because of the way played both the police and Al Capone for his own pleasure.

Manager can imply either positive of negative feelings depending on the perception of the relationship between the manipulator and the manipulated:


1 A person responsible for controlling or administering an organization or group of staff:

Manipulator remains the best noun to describe a manipulative person with either connotation:


  1. A person who controls or influences others in a clever or unscrupulous way.

  2. A person who handles or controls something skillfully.


If the manipulations are selfishly motivated with the goal of getting ahead, then Machiavellian fits.

More generally, artful. If the manipulations are subtle, then sly.


The best single word to describe someone who is manipulative, is "manipulative".

"a manipulative person tries to control people to their advantage" CDO

Other adjectives such as "designing", "artful", "shrewd", etc, won't describe manipulative any better.

  • Sometimes the word you want is the word you're thinking of. – Martin Krzywinski Jan 16 '15 at 0:08

If positive then perhaps, Facility: 2. an ability to do or learn something well and easily; a natural aptitude. "he had a facility for languages" synonyms: aptitude, talent, gift, flair, bent, skill, knack, genius

I just google.commed this.

  • 1
    Your interpretation of OPs opinion of 'manipulator' was exactly right. I took it that way too, at least enough to put "(at least the noun part)" in my comment up top. +1 to you and Ulrich for at least getting the noun part right as well. – Papa Poule Jan 16 '15 at 19:29
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    Thanks, @PapaPoule, it was a little difficult to figure out exactly what the OP wanted, so I just took a shot in the dark. Good to know I hit something! – user98990 Jan 24 '15 at 2:13

Somebody who manipulates other people, in particular if they (or the public at large) are not aware of it, is a puppetmaster.

(Oxforddictionaries.com suggests it's one word, personally, I'd have written it as puppet master.)

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