What do you call someone who is very good at dodging responsibility for his mistakes?

  • 4
    An elected official; a politician. – Brian Hitchcock Mar 28 '15 at 11:42
  • 3
    You can say "That guy is [made of] teflon". – Dan Bron Mar 28 '15 at 11:44
  • 1
    You can call them slippery, though that possibly connotes more dishonesty than you are looking for here. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 28 '15 at 12:08
  • Yeah, "Teflon" is a common term (and often applied to politicians). – Hot Licks Mar 28 '15 at 12:30
  • Didn't the saying "Teflon president" come into vogue during Reagan's administration? – rhetorician Mar 28 '15 at 16:37

One relevant term that has been in vogue for several decades in politics is deniability, as in "We suspect that Governor X masterminded the highway on-ramp closures to punish Mayor Y for not endorsing him in the last election; but Governor X is insulated from involvement in the closure order by several layers of underlings, so from a legal perspective he still has strong deniability."

Another common idiomatic term (which Dan Bron and Hot Licks note in comments above) is Teflon, referring to the no-stick surface used on cookware and utensils to make them easy to clean. As rhetorician notes in a comment above, the term Teflon initially gained political prominence in connection with President Reagan, who seemed to retain his personal popularity even when his administration's policies came under fire and when various members of his administration got into legal trouble. Reagan's political adversaries sometimes called him "the Teflon President" because they couldn't make any of the fallout from these setbacks and scandals stick to him.

An even older expression of a similar notion is contained in the schoolyard taunt, "I'm rubber and you're glue; whatever you say bounces off me and sticks on you." The rubber kid thus evades the barbs and accusations that are flying about, while the glue kid soon wears a lead cloak of adhering calumnies. This, in a nutshell, is how our adult political process still works in the United States.


Good question! I can't think of a single word, but an old saying is:

"He/She always comes out smelling like a rose."


I have heard references to "The Artful Dodger" character from Oliver Twist used effectively in this context. i.e. "That boy can get out of anything, he's an Artful Dodger"

other options could be slick, sly, wily, elusive, foxy, cunning, crafty, cagey, shrewd, subtle...


A good word for someone who dodges responsibility is a shirker. Other possibilities: dead-beat, avoider, goldbrick.

  • 2
    That's avoiding work -- different from avoiding blame. – Hot Licks Mar 28 '15 at 12:31
  • Well, the questioner asked about "responsibility" (not "blame"), and the definition according to dictionary.com is "a person who evades work, duty, responsibility, etc." But perhaps a compound noun like responsibility-shirker would make it clearer? – William Bloom Mar 28 '15 at 13:03
  • I think people may be voting down my answer without actually knowing or taking a moment to look up the definition of "shirker," which makes me sad. I encourage the questioner to look "shirker" up in a dictionary and decide for herself/himself. TY! :) – William Bloom Mar 28 '15 at 13:26
  • I just checked several online dictionaries. The definition is generally "one who deliberately avoids work or duty". Implies nothing about responsibility, save from the indirect point that the avoided work/duty may involve responsibility. – Hot Licks Mar 28 '15 at 17:13
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    dictionary.com: to evade (work, duty, responsibility, etc.). thefreedictionary.com: To avoid or neglect (a duty or responsibility). oxforddictionaries.com: Avoid or neglect (a duty or responsibility): Merriam-Webster: to avoid doing something that you are supposed to do – William Bloom Mar 29 '15 at 1:26

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