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For a fantasy writing project,1 I am looking for a title or epithet for a character that emphasizes that the character has changed the world. Either a single word, or a phrase that could reasonably be used as an epithet, is what I’m looking for.

The title should also be reasonably neutral as to whether the changes made are good or bad: the emphasis should be on how significantly the world has been changed by their actions, and how impressive that is regardless of what you think of the changes. It should be focused on the accomplishment of such a change; it could apply to someone who changed the world unwittingly.

Lofty, grandiose titles are appropriate, even ideal, and being immediately recognizable is less important than sounding impressive and having the correct meaning.

  1. In particular, the project is a character class for a role-playing game. This title would be the reward for reaching the highest level in the class (and would convey certain benefits, which are not relevant). But this is the reason for the neutrality requirement, since this has to be able to describe any member of the class, rather than a particular character.
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    Revolutionary means "involving or causing a complete or dramatic change", which seems to match your description; but it also means "engaged in or promoting political revolution" so I'm indecisive... – Yay Feb 2 '16 at 21:15
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    @Yay Yeah, it does seem to fit but it’s not what I’m going for. The political aspect is not really what I’m looking for, and the fact that it doesn’t uniquely identify the person as someone who already accomplished such a change is also problematic. I’ll update the question some, though, since your comment has hinted to me how I need to narrow it. – KRyan Feb 2 '16 at 21:20
  • @ermanen Hah, all that does for me is show that I’m not the only one who couldn’t think of anything for this! Thanks though, since that does give me a fallback if I really can’t find anything better. – KRyan Feb 2 '16 at 21:23
  • @ermanen Fair enough; you should answer then. I’d upvote it (as I have anemone’s contribution), though I’m probably not going to accept it. – KRyan Feb 2 '16 at 21:34
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    Would catalyst work here? As in "catalysts of change" (the change could either be positive or negative). – BiscuitBoy Feb 3 '16 at 9:34
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I don't know how common you'd like this word to be, so I'll offer you some unusual choices. The 'Tirthankara', less gloriously called a 'Jina':

In the Jain religion, one of the twenty-four founding prophets or Jinas, venerated as having successfully crossed the stream of time and having made a path for others to follow.

["Tirthankara, n.". OED Online. December 2015. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/202498 (accessed February 03, 2016). Or 'Jina', see also Dictionary of Unfamiliar Words by Diagram Group. S.v. "tirthankara." Retrieved February 3 2016 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Tirthankara .]


A more stolid and thus more neutral term--nothing grandiose about it--is the simple 'Change-Agent'.

change agent n. one who initiates a movement toward social change in a group.

["change, n.". OED Online. December 2015. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/30467?redirectedFrom=change+agent (accessed February 03, 2016).]

This term has unfortunately been co-opted by business of late:

Change Agent
An employee or outside consultant who believes that he/she is making positive changes to a company. The term is used most commonly when certain employees encourage the use of new technologies. These changes may or may not be popular among other employees.

[Farlex Financial Dictionary. S.v. "Change agent." Retrieved February 3 2016 from http://financial-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Change+Agent ]

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The word you are looking for is

disrupter
a company that changes the traditional way an industry operates, especially in a new and effective way:
If customers talk to everybody else they get the status quo. We're the innovator; we're the disruptor.

Cambridge Dictionary

  • Gates was always more accustomed to being a disruptor than being disrupted.

  • Colin Dunlap: Neild on defense – as always. Some people have no idea exactly how good this guy is, even when he doesn't make tackles, because he is such a disruptor. And, something tells me Noel Devine will have a big game.

  • They will be joining other speakers including John Doerr, Michael Moritz, Barry Diller, Zynga’s Mark Pincus, HP’s Todd Bradley, Google’s Marissa Mayer, Microsoft’s Yusuf Mehdi, and Twitter’s Jason Goldman.
    Cook, of course, started out as a disruptor himself in the 1980s when he brought accounting software to PCs. (TechCrunch)

  • It would improve the answer if you included a dictionary reference for the word and why you believe that this is the right word. – KillingTime Aug 31 '19 at 9:38
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Sine Qua Non might work. It means, loosely speaking, a necessary condition, so it might convey the idea that the person was key to the new order of the world. It is a bit of legalese, but lofty, and therefore suitable as an epithet.

You were not looking for Aftermath, I suppose (because of the negative connotation). However, other compounds beginning with After- might work.

  • Sine qua non’s loftiness is actually perfectly appropriate, but if I’m going to go into Latin for this I want to get a bilingual bonus out of it, and I feel like there’s too much logical leap from “necessary condition” to “the source of change” for a reader to get without explaining it. And aftermath is too much the result of the change rather than the cause (and also isn’t necessarily world-changing). – KRyan Feb 2 '16 at 21:22
  • @KRyan Mmm. The short English for Sine Qua Non appears to be But For... On a more practical note, you might even get some inspiration from the SE badges. How about Guru, for example? – anemone Feb 2 '16 at 21:35
  • The direct translation of sine qua non (assuming my Latin hasn’t gotten too rusty) would be without which not. Anyway, guru is, I believe, teacher (and also, in the target work, already a word being used in a very-different context). Skimming the list doesn’t really offer much inspiration, either—good idea though. – KRyan Feb 2 '16 at 21:42
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I don't know if either of these work perfectly, but I think they're worth considering. Both describe a very influential person in a neutral(ish) way.

Doyen carries the connotation of a leader or prominent figure who has already risen to the top. Doyen is often positive (the doyen of international finance), but you could just as easily be the doyen of organized crime.

a : the senior member of a body or group

b : a person considered to be knowledgeable or uniquely skilled as a result of long experience in some field of endeavor

Another to consider, someone who is known for challenging a tearing down fundamental institutions is iconoclast

1 : a person who destroys religious images or opposes their veneration

2 : a person who attacks settled beliefs or institutions

  • Doyen doesn’t quite fit, and heh, doesn’t really sound that grandiose to me, but it’s also a word I have never heard before and I’ll +1 that. Iconoclast is too specific about the sort of change that has occurred (tearing things down) when I want something that could equally-well apply to changes by addition. – KRyan Feb 2 '16 at 21:44
  • I think both of them have shifted a little bit in meaning as they've become rarer. Iconoclastic people often destroy the old by introducing the new, Henry Ford destroying the idea a typical family couldn't own a car, Steve Jobs destroying the idea of a record store by introducing the iPod/iTunes, etc. – Josh Rumbut Feb 3 '16 at 1:49
  • Neither is perfect, but I'm glad I got to spread doyen! Maybe next project! – Josh Rumbut Feb 3 '16 at 1:49
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You can consider the phrases great mind or creative genius. These terms are often associated with people who changed the world. I think the terms can serve as a grandiose title as well.

Here is the intro paragraph of an article titled "Creative Genius: The World's Greatest Minds" from livescience.com:

News of the death of Apple founder Steve Jobs on Oct. 5, 2011, has been received with sadness, admiration and gratefulness for a man considered a "creative genius" who "changed the world" in many ways. In addition to Jobs, plenty of great minds have challenged paradigms, opened windows into worlds we didn't even know existed, and produced innovations that have persisted through time. Here's a look at the world's titanic thinkers, from Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein to Stephen Hawking.

Note: Another bonus term is a titanic thinker from the same excerpt. Also related is an innovator but it might not convey the idea by itself, so you can consider the phrase world-changing innovator.


Additionally, there is simply world-changer as a self-explanatory term. The term is even listed in OED and there is an example from 2000:

So what makes The Beatles world-changers as well as best-sellers?

Andrew Calcutt · Brit cult: an a-z of British pop culture

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    Will you label these words as neutral? OP has specified that the words can have a positive/negative connotation. – Jony Agarwal Feb 3 '16 at 8:48
  • @Jony: Depends. A great mind might change the world in a negative way. – ermanen Feb 3 '16 at 13:20
  • I like world-changer well enough to upvote, but a great mind or creative genius does not necessarily change the world, so those don’t work for me. – KRyan Feb 4 '16 at 15:20
  • @KRyan: I think "world-changer" is the only word that doesn't depend on a context. I just offered some common terms that are associated with people who changed the world. Did you choose a word yet? – ermanen Feb 5 '16 at 15:59
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I like "historymaker"

one that by acts, ideas, or existence modifies the course of history

or history-maker

A person who influences the course of history or does something spectacular or worthy of remembrance.

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Perhaps a good title that meets your "Lofty, grandiose" request would be Fate Shifter or Fate Maker.

I like these titles because fate is commonly regarded as being out of our control.

fate

a power that is believed to control what happens in the future

the things that will happen to a person or thing : the future that someone or something will have

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I have three suggestions.

Luminary a person who sheds light on some subject or enlightens mankind; famous intellectual any well-known or celebrated person

Eminent : exhibiting eminence especially in standing above others in some quality or position : PROMINENT 2 : standing out so as to be readily perceived or noted : CONSPICUOUS 3 : jutting out : PROJECTING

Megastar A celebrity. Originally coined for a very famous or successful celebrity but now routinely used to describe anyone who has public exposure.

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