What would you call an athlete who is weak, slow-moving, in bad shape etc. As in, for example,

"No wonder he won in a fight with Kyle, that guy is just a ___."

As you can tell, I am looking for an informal term, so a plain-vanilla 'weakling' won't really do.

In Russia, for instance, you could hear such a person being referred to as 'булка', which literally means 'a bun'(like a cake).

  • 1
    I've always used "scrub." Here's a link: english.stackexchange.com/questions/174704/…
    – user66965
    May 16, 2016 at 20:26
  • I see a lexical ambiguity here. Kyle is the loser, right?
    – NVZ
    May 16, 2016 at 20:35
  • In school I remember kids using the profane acronym "naf"="Non-athletic F***" in your proposed context.
    – Sam
    May 16, 2016 at 20:35
  • bum, loaf, etc. May 16, 2016 at 20:44
  • palooka, tomato can.
    – Phil Sweet
    May 16, 2016 at 21:01

3 Answers 3


"..that guy is just a washout"

Washout, from M-W

  1. one that fails to measure up : failure: as
    a. one who fails in a course of training or study
    b. an unsuccessful enterprise or undertaking

"He was a washout as a professional golfer"
"The team lost so many games that the season was a total washout."
"Yesterday's game was a washout."

To add more emphasis, you may say:

"..that guy is a colossal washout"

more informal synonyms: flop, dud, non-starter, no-hoper, lead balloon, fail, clinker, damp squib, lemon, loser, dead loss, dead duck

Another suggestion is:

Non-achiever, from ODO

A person who is unsuccessful, especially in the attainment of educational goals:

"all his life he’s never had praise but been told he’s a non-achiever"

After your edit, I have this new suggestion:

Cupcake, from ODO

2.1 A weak or effeminate man.

I'm not sure if this term is popular, though.


"Scrub" like surlawda mentioned is used mainly in North American English to mean a sports team or player not among the best or most skilled.


Some good suggestions already, but no one has yet mentioned palooka. Per American Heritage Dictionary:

  1. Sports An incompetent or easily defeated athlete, especially a prizefighter.
  2. Slang A stupid or clumsy person.

OED calls it “slang (chiefly U.S.),” so rest assured the term is plenty informal.

  • Strangely, the character Joe Palooka, who dates to 1921, was a heavyweight champion who would later go on to "KO the Nazis." The character was drawn to resemble whoever was the reigning heavyweight champ (that is, up until the champion was black). And yet as early as 1923, the term "palooka" was being used to describe a lout or inept fighter. How'd that happen?!?
    – user66965
    May 16, 2016 at 21:15
  • @surlawda, I'm guessing you're getting the 1923 date from Wikipedia, which cites it as a "found in print" date. OED lists 1920, though in the more general sense of lout or oaf; the first boxing-specific example is 1927, when Dashiell Hammett spells it paluka. But slang tends to have oral currency well before it hits print. May 16, 2016 at 21:25
  • Indeed I did. So this is weirder still--naming a heavyweight champion champion Joe Palooka seems like the equivalent of naming a Kentucky Derby winner Gluepot.
    – user66965
    May 16, 2016 at 21:28
  • @surlawda, So we're back to this. May 16, 2016 at 22:05

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