For example, what single word can I use as a replacement here?
"He's been standing there and waiting all morning, poor guy."

The synonym should be sympathetic, so no derogatory words

  • 3
    I think this is a bit of a "non-issue". No normal native speaker associates the cited usage with poverty. Aug 21, 2015 at 15:11
  • 1
    As an attributive adjective (before the noun), poor almost always means in an undesirable state (often, to be pitied). In principle you could switch it to pitiful, pitiable (and presumably others), but if your reason for wishing to do this is simply to avoid connotations of poverty, I suggest the entire concept is misplaced. Some possibilities (such as pathetic) might skew your meaning in ways you wouldn't want if you fully understood them. Aug 21, 2015 at 15:47
  • 2
    Depends a lot on whether you want an empathetic or derogatory term (likely there is nothing neutral).
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 21, 2015 at 18:10
  • 1
    (Oddly, "the poor sap" is relatively empathetic, in the right context.)
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 21, 2015 at 18:21
  • 1
    @user13267 - I think "poor guy" in the example sentence is perfect as is, and cannot be improved upon. Aug 23, 2015 at 23:15

3 Answers 3


I'm thinking a possible single word would be

wretch - a deplorably unfortunate or unhappy person

Looking up its synonyms gives other candidates, but this and many on the list may have a more negative connotation that makes the person seem more immoral, rather than miserable or pathetic. The list also made me think "loser", but that seems too harsh, poor guy.


I would suggest using chump.

I think it captures the essence of "poor guy" without casting too much derision or sympathy.


“Poor Dab” - a saying in Wales (UK) exactly describes this unfortunate person. Or “poor soul”.

  • 1
    "Poor soul" will be understood pretty much everywhere. "Poor dab" wouldn't.
    – Laurel
    Dec 5, 2017 at 2:03
  • 2
    Can you please provide a reference? Dec 5, 2017 at 5:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.