I'm having a difficult time googling this in anyway that gives me an answer, so maybe I'm not doing a very good job at explain myself. I basically want a word that describes every down on his luck, underdog protagonist ever. You know the type. Typically through no fault of their own they find themselves in a dangerous situation, and while whoever it is they have managed to enrage appears to have every advantage in the world somehow this character makes it to the end alive and (mostly) well. Sure, they didn't win, but they survived if only by the seat of their pants, but considering the odds against them that isn't half bad.

Failing an actual identifier, any sort of descriptive word meaning about the same would work. The most important thing is that it denotes "only just managing to survive/escape/get through the situation".

  • Forrest Gump (ed, ing) A way of making it through a situation successfully through sheer dumb luck.
    – Joe Dark
    Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 12:31
  • In that case, he/she is being there. BTW Forrest Gump is a remake.
    – Jimmy
    Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 13:23
  • Well, he's not that unlucky if he manages to come out alive in every near-death situation he has the misfortune to encounter. Perhaps, the term jinxed describing a person who is habitually unlucky describes this feature better.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 18:16

8 Answers 8


a 'born survivor' (It's two words but that's just how the expression is)

A person who copes well with difficulties in their life:
she is a born survivor
Oxford Dictionaries


She had suffered enough pain and loss for several lives, and she was a born survivor. She was strong beyond reckoning. Legion By Steven Carlton


I don't think you need two words to describe this kind of person (i.e. "born survivor" or "accidental survivor").

I think the good old plain survivor works just fine:

a person regarded as resilient or courageous enough to be able to overcome hardship, misfortune, etc.



Don't worry about Kurt. The odds are against him, but he'll be fine, he's a survivor.


You may refer to a resilient person.

Definition: able to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens.

However, this expression is mostly used in the following sense that doesn't really convey the idea of surviving:

Resilience comes from being in control of oneself which enables a strong and robust attitude to be formed towards challenging events and poor behaviour of others. The more robust the attitude, the less impact adverse events has on individuals.


You cannot have a single-word that describes a person who habitually finds themself in a potential life-or-death situation but always comes out alive; therefore, I suggest that the perfect idiom for similar situations is the following:

By the skin of his teeth

Narrowly; barely. Usually used in regard to a narrow escape from a disaster.

The phrase first appears in English in the Geneva Bible, 1560, in Job 19:20, which provides a literal translation of the original Hebrew:

"I haue escaped with the skinne of my tethe."

Teeth don't have skin, of course, so the writer may have been alluding to the teeth's surface or simply to a notional minute measure - something that might now be referred to, with less poetic imagery than the biblical version, as 'as small as the hairs on a gnat's bollock'.

source: Phrase Finder


An accidental survivor?

Relearn: Embarrassing Confessions and Life Experiences of an Accidental Survivor Amazon


Someone who survives by his own skills and wits, rather than by dumb luck or bravado, is resourceful. That is, he knows how to use whatever is at hand (physical resources), applying his ingenuity (mental resources) to overcome any difficulty.



nine lives

A cat has nine lives:
The ancient saying comes from the fact that the cat is a very agile animal and can jump from very high places without getting hurt. In ancient times people assumed that the cat has many lives and so when its jumps from a high position it loses one of its lives. This saying is generally used to refer to the fact that somebody escapes even after doing something wrong without being caught or punished or somebody goes to a near death situation and then survives without much bodily damage.

I had squeaker in mind but he/she has nine lives has a subtler meaning.


Is Deus Ex Machina what you are referring to? Example below.


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