I have an event database that links two people - the person causing the event and the person the event targets. The latter column I call "target", but I can't think of a word to describe the person causing the event. So it could be a word meaning the opposite of target (which I cannot think of), or it could be something related like "instigator". However, I don't like "instigator" because it comes from a verb that is made a noun with the -or suffix. It's not that "instigator" and "target" are different parts of speech, but the word "style" is different. Is there a word for the opposite of (and in the same "style" as) target?

  • 4
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because naming coding artifacts is off topic here.
    – Robusto
    Aug 3, 2015 at 15:40
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    Just call it 'source' Aug 3, 2015 at 15:40
  • Linguists use agent/patient for a similar concept. As with your instigator/target, the two terms don't intuitively form a "matched pair", but that doesn't seem to be a problem. Certainly in your context I can't see anything wrong with agent. Aug 3, 2015 at 16:38
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    Perhaps: initiator / target, but trigger is good too. Also, consider publisher / subscriber, if you want to avoid hunting metaphors.
    – jxh
    Aug 3, 2015 at 17:30
  • Agent, actor, shooter, crybaby, UsedCarSalesman ... and their target.
    – user662852
    Aug 3, 2015 at 20:36

4 Answers 4


I'd go with "event source" and "event destination" / "event target", or "event cause" and "event effect". Then there's "event trigger"; if we're talking about a database, it may even literally be a trigger.

But at the end of the day it's a matter of personal taste.

  • As far as I understand, this question is more about the data model (so the name of a column or attribute, depending on the database type). While there's no problem with calling a column trigger if it makes sense in the model, this certainly wouldn't have anything to do with a database trigger.
    – Bruno
    Aug 3, 2015 at 18:43
  • @Bruno Well, it could. If it's a cascade delete, then it would be metonymically fair to say that the row itself and the deletion of the row are both the trigger for the deletion of the foreign key row(s) in the other table, despite the fact that they aren't trigger objects. Aug 3, 2015 at 18:57

Your system describes events which are caused by people and also which affect people. Such events have an effect on the person they target. This effect is effected by the person who caused the event. A person who affects someone by effecting an effect is an effector.

Sorry, I missed your "no -or" requirement until after I finished writing my answer. I'm still submitting it because it was fun to write.


I think that instigator works the best, despite you disliking its style.


[ ˈinstiˌgātər ]

"Dan was considered an instigator mainly due to the fact that he was a total douche."

NOUN a person who brings about or initiates something:

synonyms: initiator · prime mover · motivator · architect · designer

OxfordDictionaries.com definition

Alternately catalyst, but I think that is less fitting because it usually connotes the beginning of a process, especitally chemically.


[ ˈkatl-ist ]


1A substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without itself undergoing any permanent chemical change.

1.1A person or thing that precipitates an event: the governor’s speech acted as a catalyst for debate

OxfordDictionaries.com definition


How about invoker:

(computing) That which causes a program or subroutine to execute.

  • Except this follows the pattern (like instigator) of being a noun that is made a verb so it still feels like a different "style" of word. (I do not know the right terms to describe it.)
    – eatonphil
    Aug 3, 2015 at 21:47

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