I need a word to use in describing the following abstract case:

There is a situation. A person could take action to react to the situation, and then there would be an effect of that action. But the person could also ignore the situation, and there would be a different consequential outcome resulting from inaction.

I'm looking for a concise (and preferably short) word for "consequential outcome resulting from inaction".

  • There are a bunch of words for bad outcomes; I rummaged through them and I didn't find a word connoting 'inaction', so you could use one of them (e.g. repercussion, consequence, sequela (maybe!), etc.) with of inaction. You might also consider lost opportunity and lossage . I didn't post this as an answer because it wasn't up to par, but I thought it'd be worth mentioning as a comment.
    – Færd
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 20:47

3 Answers 3


Default Option

The default option is what the system -- or life -- does to you, or for you, when you choose not to take an action.

Wikipedia, the Default Effect (Psychology) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Default_effect_(psychology)

Amongst the set of options that agents choose from, the default option is the option the chooser will obtain if she does nothing.

For example, if you have to check a box on a form for your employer to withhold money for an IRA, and you don't check the box, the default option goes into effect, and you don't have a deferred tax savings plan.

  • 1
    It appears this may be as close to an answer as we have in the language. It seems 'default' is used this way mostly in the realm of technical writing, and might often sound out of place in other writing. (Ex: The house is on fire! You should run out; the default is that you'll get burned!) Nonetheless the wide adoption of 'default' for this technical meaning could be evidence that a better word just doesn't exist.
    – David Korn
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 22:12
  • @David Korn Thanks for the green check! I agree that, in the example of the house on fire, "default" doesn't sound right. What the person would say is "...run out; or else you'll get burned." In a less fraught situation one could say: "put on sunblock, if you don't want to get burned."
    – ab2
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 22:30

Ballistic trajectory

"a ballistic trajectory is a trajectory traced after the propulsive force is terminated and the body is acted upon only by gravity and aerodynamic drag."

All input forces are in; the course and endpoint are easily calculated by physics, unless there is an outside interception.

A baseball term: strikeout looking

"In baseball scorekeeping, a swinging strikeout is recorded as a K, or a K-S. A strikeout looking (where the batter does not swing at a pitch that the umpire then calls strike three) is often scored with a backward K, and sometimes as a K-L, CK, or Kc (the 'c' for 'called' strike)"


If you're setting the scene for the consequences, regardless of what they are, you can use "the result(s)", or "resulting in". For example:

Charles heard the alarm bell, but did nothing. The results were catastrophic.

Charles heard the alarm and moved quickly. The result was a safe evacuation.

... or ...

Charles did nothing about the alarm, resulting in catastrophe.

Charles reacted quickly to the alarm, resulting in a safe evacuation.

  • First: This is a neutral word, and second: it is used in the very question you're answering: a word for "consequential outcome resulting from inaction".
    – Færd
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 20:40

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