I need a word for someone who thinks that they won't become successful or will fail?

  • 1
    Do you want it to be a noun for the person or an adjective describing the person as a loser? Apr 23, 2015 at 13:13
  • 7
    I'd say a pessimist.
    – Jez
    Apr 23, 2015 at 13:13
  • 8
    Usually, "correct". ;-)
    – mbm29414
    Apr 23, 2015 at 19:10
  • 8
    yes, I's call them "realist" :)
    – jwenting
    Apr 24, 2015 at 7:54
  • 2
    @Jez No, it's not a pessimist. It's a defeatist. A pessimist only anticipates the worst. That says nothing whatsoever about what they achieve, no more than optimistic or happy do.
    – smci
    Apr 25, 2015 at 0:03

6 Answers 6


A defeatist

a person who surrenders easily or is subject to defeatism.
defeatism: the attitude, policy, or conduct of a person who admits, expects, or no longer resists defeat, as because of a conviction that further struggle or effort is futile; pessimistic resignation.
- Dictionary.com

  • 3
    it's not defeatism if it's a realistic expectation. If you're set a task that's impossible to handle, it's realistic to say you're going to fail at it, not defeatist. Say you're tasked by the knights who until recently said Ni to chop down the tallest tree in the forest with a herring, you'd not seriously expect to succeed in that, do you?
    – jwenting
    Apr 24, 2015 at 7:56
  • 5
    In American English, no task is ever impossible. :D Apr 24, 2015 at 13:10
  • @jwenting Do you have a word for reasonably expecting to fail? It's not 'realist', that doesn't have anything to do with failure (even if a realist would expect to fail in your example).
    – DCShannon
    Apr 25, 2015 at 3:11



  1. a person who habitually sees or anticipates the worst or is disposed to be gloomy.


  • I'm not sure why this has so few upvotes, but it seems the most suiting to me.
    – HarryCBurn
    Apr 23, 2015 at 21:48
  • Pessimistic engineer could be very successful. "I just do not trust the general design of this nuclear missile alarm system, I need to think and propose some additional safe guards so that there will be no false alarms." Or: "I am sure Google just cannot write correct code, I am sure there is something flaky how this new Chrome browser feature X is implemented. I am going to prove it and earn another money prize and a nice addition to my resume."
    – FooF
    Apr 24, 2015 at 4:22
  • I can imagine somebody in general to be very optimistic ("the world is good and life is generous"), but still regard his own actions as not likely to succeed ("I am not just very good at any of the things I try to do, and it is just so funny how bad my luck is, but it does not matter since even without job and money I can still grow my own vegetables, and survive just fine and at least have a lot of time to enjoy the sunshine"). I think pessimist has different sound to it than what OP was asking. I would downvote this answer, but my reputation (<125) does not yet permit. :-)
    – FooF
    Apr 24, 2015 at 4:26
  • +1, Although 'defeatist' is more precise, this is definitely the word I thought of first. Expecting to fail is expecting a negative outcome. The person in @FooF's example seems to me to be neither pessimistic nor defeatist. They sound like they're expecting everything to be just fine, in spite of not being very skilled. That's rather optimistic.
    – DCShannon
    Apr 25, 2015 at 2:31
  • @DCShannon - Pessimism is much more general word, by itself it does not imply particular subject or domain of outcome. I could have written the pessimistic engineer example in more exact way ("I expect this nuclear missile alarm system to fail, there is just no way to make this work 100% correct and not give false alarms. The politicians, as always, are hopelessly stupid to expect to have reliable system implemented. There is no way I can make them understand this. Oh well, let's go over this thing again and think where it could fail. Maybe we can postpone 3rd world war by couple of years".)
    – FooF
    Apr 27, 2015 at 8:08


Not confident; hesitant - Oxford Dictionaries

An unconfident person will attempt a task but not in a confident manner, fearing that they will trip up in some way.



a person who says something will not work or is not possible : a person who denies, refuses, or opposes something: - Merriam-Webster

that would mean they are actually a pessimist, but it is actually a roundabout way of saying it. I'm not a pessimist, just an enthusiastic naysayer! or He naysayed his own prospects.


A person who predicts Disaster: - Oxford Dictionaries

You could also try: Doomsayers in the political party think we'll loose the war, but there are no rules against "doom-saying" something much more local, like your own prospects.

The pessimist on the lifeguard competition team was a real doomsayer, he couldn't be quiet about how his team was too slow when dragging the backboard out of the water just before the final round!

  • Those might work, but both are usually used to refer to others' undertakings, not one's own.
    – DCShannon
    Apr 25, 2015 at 2:32

Depending on the context, you can use loser as someone who has already lost before starting.

A person who loses; one who fails to win or thrive. wiktionary

If you want be less familiar, you can use pessimistic or negative.

From wiktionary :


  1. Marked by pessimism and little hopefulness; expecting the worst.

  2. Pertaining to the worst-case scenario.

And from same source :


  1. Not tending to see the bright side of things.
  • 2
    If "loser" always meant "someone who has already lost before starting", @Yohann, I should be happier. After all, in many fields I am one of those myself. The reason I dislike this word is its frequent use to imply that anyone who does not possess the quantity of worldly goods achieved by the speaker, possibly because he just doesn't want to, is contemptible.
    – David Pugh
    Apr 23, 2015 at 13:34
  • I said depending on the context. It is not its litteral meaning but the meaning often behind it when someone call you a loser.
    – Yohann V.
    Apr 23, 2015 at 13:42
  • +1 for 'negative', but 'loser' seems like a bit of a stretch.
    – DCShannon
    Apr 25, 2015 at 2:33

You may also consider fatalist, though I like some of the other answers better.

From the beginning of the linked article (added emphasis):

Fatalism generally refers to any of the following ideas:

  1. The view that we are powerless to do anything other than what we actually do. Included in this is that man has no power to influence the future, or indeed, his own actions. This belief is very similar to predeterminism.
  2. An attitude of resignation in the face of some future event or events which are thought to be inevitable. Friedrich Nietzsche named this idea with "Turkish fatalism" in his book The Wanderer and His Shadow.
  3. That actions are free, but nevertheless work toward an inevitable end. This belief is very similar to compatibilist predestination.
  4. That acceptance is appropriate, rather than resistance against inevitability. This belief is very similar to defeatism.
  • Please expand on why fatalist is a good choice. Apr 24, 2015 at 23:10

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