Is there a word for someone who starts things but doesn't finish them?

Similar to a procrastinator who delays starting things, but this person has no problem starting new projects.

  • 1
    There's probably more than one term b/c it's more of a psychological question than an English question. I have this issue myself, and, after years of soul searching, I have decided that my inability to finish anything is less a function of my ADD or insecurity and more of a thing I have termed disillusioned idealism. (If it's not going to be perfect, I refuse to "give birth" to it.)
    – Oldbag
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 12:25
  • @Oldbag Understandable and noteworthy, but I think from the tags this question is looking more for a colloquial insult. Might be worth editing the question text to make that more clear.
    – Nanban Jim
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 15:41
  • 1
    @NanbanJim - Oh. Then how about scatterbrain?
    – Oldbag
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 6:50
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    At work, we call similar behavior avoidance therapy - doing what is interesting at the time, rather than what really needs to be done. :)
    – Davo
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 13:18
  • I believe this is called a contractor
    – Stu W
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 13:42

6 Answers 6


quitter (noun):

a person who gives up easily or does not have the courage or determination to finish a task

'This is not a game for wimps, quitters or the easily bruised: there will be no quick fixes.'

Source: ODO

The Japanese idiom, mikka bouzo, translates literally as: 'three-day monk'. It is used in reference to a person who easily gives up after starting something new.

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  • Quitter is good but it's a bit positive, quitting is an action in itself, I was thinking more that the task just gets forgotten about, fades away. Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 9:22
  • Ok, thanks @stuartdotnet I'll see if I can think of a more suitable term:) Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 9:37
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    mikka bouzo is brilliant! Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 3:07

I'd use ineffectual/feckless person:

  • Lacking forcefulness or effectiveness; inadequate or incompetent: an ineffectual ruler; ineffectual in dealing with a problem.

The Free Dictionary


Deserter comes close. In the army, a deserter is someone who joins the force and abandons (his duty or post) midway, with the intention of not returning.

deserter: to leave (a person, place, project etc.) without intending to return, especially in violation of a duty, promise, or the like.


Procrasterbator: someone who puts off the start or finish of tasks by substituting a more attractive or satisfying activity in its place. I.e. - whacking off instead of working out.

The important concept here is although a clear goal is "in hand" Once attained it isn't eliminated, as the likely chance of a repeat performance in the future.

  • Welcome to English Language & Usage! Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.
    – NVZ
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 6:50

Tweaker. A person who runs out of hours in the day to accomplish something they set out to do the day before.

  • Can you add some supporting evidence? According to Merriam-Webster, "tweaker" is used to mean a person who tunes or makes minor adjustments to things to optimize their performance, or a person who uses crystal meth. (merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tweaker) No indication it's used to mean a person who doesn't finish things they start.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 21:54

He/she can't see the trees for the forest.

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    Welcome to ELU. Unfortunately this answer falls far below the standard expected here, because: 1. This is a completely different idiom. 2. Good answers give an explanation of why it's a good fit, normally with a definition. 3. That definition should be referenced where possible.
    – AndyT
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 14:02
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    Maybe you mean overwhelmed? I see the irony, but not the answer. Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 20:23
  • Yes, overwhelmed. One takes on so many things for various reasons, then just gets overwhelmed. 1. Inspection on why ones takes on more then they are able to accomplish. 2. Then, not being able to finish what has been taken on. Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 13:47

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