English buddies! I've got presque vu today.

I'm looking for an adjective or noun that connotes:

  1. A risk-taking individual
  2. A unique individual
  3. An individual who isn't content with following in the footsteps of others.

I feel like a word for this does exist, but I can't think of it! (In other words, college application essays frustrate me.)

I'd be grateful for any help!

EDIT: Thank you all so much! I need it because my counselor wanted me to describe myself in 3 words...which is difficult. I appreciate all the words :)

  • 1
    Can you write an example sentence where the word would be used? – user140086 Jun 28 '16 at 17:24
  • 4
    Sounds like a maverick (helpfully, the word can be a noun or an adjective). – 1006a Jun 28 '16 at 18:46
  • 2
    Depending on context, iconoclast may also fit. – Will Kunkel Jun 29 '16 at 3:28

The word iconoclast means someone who breaks (with) outmoded traditions. It doesn't specifically denote a risk-taker, but it does have those connotations. By its origins, it denotes a social reformer, but it's most often used now just to indicate someone who refuses to (as you indicated) follow in the footsteps of others.

Iconoclast: a person who criticizes or opposes beliefs and practices that are widely accepted.

The word comes from those who literally broke "icons" or religious images, out of the belief that they were superstitious and/or idolatrous.


A frequently used noun would be "Trailblazer" - owing to the concept of the first person to enter an unknown, potentially risky area. The term is used in nearly any application where innovation, and a fearless disregard for conventional wisdom are involved , i.e. Medicine, Technology, Sports, etc.

Example: "Dr. DeBakey was considered by most to be a true trailblazer, a pioneer in Cardiac surgeries"

  • The avant-garde (from French, "advance guard") has a meaning very similar to that of "trailblazer". – Scott Jun 29 '16 at 4:37
  • This might be a bit of an over-reach for a 16 year-old kid. – Cascabel Jun 29 '16 at 19:46

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