I need to know a word which means:

"negligence shown by a person in performing a duty, or a responsibility, or any given task."


"A person who is negligent in performing their duties/responsibilities."

One possible choice is the use of word "delinquent". Is there any other word?

Please provide the usage of suggested word in a sentence also.

  • 2
    Can you give some more information about what you need this word for? Is there a reason that you can't use "negligence"?
    – Nicole
    Apr 13, 2015 at 14:19
  • 1
    See dereliction of duty.
    – tchrist
    Apr 13, 2015 at 14:20
  • @Nicole: I don't need this word for any specific purpose right now. I was just trying to frame a sentence in this context. "Negligence' is apt word in itself, but there are always other ways to say or write anything in a language. Moreover, it is always good to know something "more".
    – a.s.
    Apr 13, 2015 at 15:16
  • As you can see from the answers, there is not an unambiguous single word for this.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 13, 2015 at 17:51

6 Answers 6


The words you're looking for are:

dereliction (of duty)

From oxford:

The shameful failure to fulfil one’s obligations

As in, "the prosecution team were guilty of dereliction of duty for failing to disclose evidence"

and derelict

From oxford:

chiefly North American Shamefully negligent of one’s duties or obligations

EDIT: Although derelict does have other meanings, as noted in the comments.

  • 1
    For me derelict is an adjective to describe an empty disused building that may be in bad repair - hence the comment that derelict is chiefly N. America...
    – tom
    Apr 13, 2015 at 14:36
  • 1
    Also used to describe very poor, barely functional bums. Also N. America. May 28, 2015 at 16:26
  • I've always thought that "a derelict" is a ship that was abandoned and unseaworthy, or that lost its crew in some misfortune at sea. If it was used of a person, I'd be taken by surprise, but my mental image would be of someone dying of drink (which is also what WhatRoughBeast said). And I'm from the US South, so I'm not sure that "derelict" to mean "a negligent person" is an Americanism...
    – ExOttoyuhr
    May 28, 2015 at 19:29
  • @ExOttoyuhr: The entry does say chiefly North American :)
    – Tushar Raj
    Jun 3, 2015 at 14:58
  • @Tushar Raj: "North American" means "the continent of North America" -- in this context, "English-speaking North America," the US and Canada.
    – ExOttoyuhr
    Jun 3, 2015 at 15:07

In less formal conversation, a person "shirks" his duties, and is called "a shirker".

Oxford definition:

Avoid or neglect (a duty or responsibility)

As in, she has not shirked her duty, nor shied away from pain.

  • It should be noted, though, that more often than not, shirk is used with a negative.
    – Tushar Raj
    Apr 13, 2015 at 17:19

I agree with Tushar - dereliction (of duty) - fits best here.

I just wanted to add that Delinquent is a (sometimes pejorative) adjective or noun most often used to refer to a teenager/young person who does not engage in normal education/training/work appropriate for their stage and may use their time to cause trouble instead. - so I would not use Delinquent in this context, unless you want to describe a young person who has issues with the whole of their life.... ...dereliction of duty normally refers to one individual action - so that there may be one particular task that is not done properly or one area of responsibility that is overlooked.

  • 1
    yeah, use of "delinquent" is inappropriate here.
    – a.s.
    Apr 13, 2015 at 15:07

Negligence is still a better word of all synonyms because it is a legal term, a part of legal practice. You can shorten your phrase, instead of

negligence shown by a person in performing a duty

you can use legal terms

  • neglect of duty
  • breach of duty

The person accused of breach of duty will be defendant.

Consider this legal text:

Breach of Duty

A defendant is liable for negligence when the defendant breaches the duty that the defendant owes to the plaintiff. A defendant breaches such a duty by failing to exercise reasonable care in fulfilling the duty.


  • Negligence and negligent - very good terms to use - and less emotive than dereliction +!
    – tom
    Apr 13, 2015 at 15:09

I'd suggest "professional recklessness" or "a reckless professional"

  • reckless (adj) "acting with a lack of care or caution; careless or irresponsible". TFD


  • "We've been observing him and found he is a reckless professional."
  • "That would be considered professional recklessness and I might be fired."

You're sort of asking two questions in one here. I will answer this one: the person who's negligent.


1 : a person who shirks work or obligation especially : one who evades military service in time of war

2 : a person and especially a young person who is perceived to be disaffected, apathetic, cynical, or lacking ambition

(Merriam Webster)


I had to work overtime again today. The slackers left early but we had to get the quarterly report out today.

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