So I've been trying to figure this out recently. There is a word like that in Russian, which is my native language, but I can't seem to find an English counterpart to it. In Russian, the word is "попаданец"(pronounced as something like pop-ah-dun-ets if you're curious) and it's basically a person(usually from present day, though the reverse happens also) who gets somehow transported to another time/universe/world by some means, almost always against their own will.

As an example, Fry from Futurama fits the bill, since he went from the year 2000 to the year 3000 against his will. However, if Doctor Who(or any other time traveler) travels in time he doesn't qualify. Although if his TARDIS malfunctioned and he ended up stranded in a parallel universe, you could argue that he qualifies for that title.

So the question is: is there a colloquial term to call those characters in English?

  • Oh, you got a downvote. It wasn't me, but I'd guess the reason is that you didn't tell us what research you did: how do dictionaries and online sources like Google Translate translate the Russian word to English? Why weren't you able to find the answer to your question there? Please edit your question to add this information :)
    – herisson
    Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 19:50

5 Answers 5


Time traveller? (It does not have to connote willingness, or an ability to travel at will.)


A phrase I know of is - "spirited away"


Wikipedia uses the term "fish-out-of-water" in the context of discussing the Russian word:

In science fiction, with communist censorship gone, many various portrayals of future appeared, including dystopias. Post-apocalyptic fiction, time travel and alternate history are among the most popular genres, represented by authors like Vyacheslav Rybakov, Yuri Nikitin, among many others. Overuse of fish-out-of-water plots for time travel and parallel worlds led Russian SF&F journalists to coin the ironic slur popadanets (Rus. попаданец, lit. getter) for such characters. [bolding not in original]

(Russian science fiction and fantasy)

A "fish out of water" is a general English idiom for someone who feels out of place or uncomfortable in their environment (not just time travelers or people in parallel universes).

The website TV Tropes (a wiki that lists "tropes" used in literature and other media) describes the time-travel situation specifically with the term "Fish Out of Temporal Water." I haven't heard this exact term used in conversation, but it is an understandable way of making the general idiom more specific.


There is not a specific noun for such a person in English. I think the closest equivalent is the phrase "man out of time."

This phrase could mean someone who is actually ripped into another era, as in your examples, or someone who seems to be from another time due to certain traits, so it isn't a perfect match.

Examples of the other usage would be any visionary considered "ahead of his time" or Marv from Sin City, who would've been accepted as a gladiator but was an outcast in his own time.


I'd say the best word we have is Isekai, a Japanese anime/manga category of people who usually die and get sent to another world. So reincarnation or something like that.

  • 2
    This is the name for the genre, not the characters.
    – Laurel
    Commented Aug 18, 2023 at 0:38
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    Commented Aug 18, 2023 at 2:11

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