What would you call a person that is so scared of losing their own life that they will go so far as to risk the lives of others? I'm trying to think of a word that expresses the meaning of someone who is selfish like that, but I don't want to use the words selfish or self-centered. Writing an essay on the Holocaust; please help!

  • 5
    A coward, surely? – Dan Bron Mar 23 '16 at 17:57
  • 5
    Actually, "normal" comes pretty close. It takes a fair amount of courage to resist the temptation you describe. – Hot Licks Mar 23 '16 at 18:05
  • 1
    Desperate, perhaps. If you've got nothing left to lose you might risk anything, including others' lives, in a desperate attempt to save your own life. – Charl E Mar 23 '16 at 18:17
  • 1
    Brigid Brophy: "Whenever people say, 'We mustn't be sentimental,' you can take it they are about to do something cruel. And if they add, 'We must be realistic,' they mean they are going to make money out of it." – Hot Licks Mar 23 '16 at 18:31
  • 1
    @Abbey If that's what you're looking for, perhaps The Bystander Effect will suit? The effect gained particular notoriety after the murder of Kitty Genovese. But note that the motivation underlying the effect isn't cowardice, [erroneous] delegation of responsibility. – Dan Bron Mar 23 '16 at 19:50

Spineless. Lets put it into a sentence .That spineless Captain that sneaked of the Cruise Ship before it capsized got thrown in jail.


You may need to use a combination of words to adequately explain the depth of meaning you are looking for. Coward, fainthearted, invertebrate, recreant (though this usually means with intent...) are just a few.

Most were so fearful for the lives of their own that they would rather turn a blind eye to the atrocities occurring right in front of them. It's nothing new and still happens with alarming frequency today.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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