Say I have a person called 'X' and he has been following every move, every mistake of 'Y' and has secretly considered him a mentor in his own mind. But 'Y' does not know about it.

One day 'X' decides to tell his secret to 'Y'.

Now how does 'X' tell 'Y' that "you've been my mentor all these years without you ever knowing it"? Is there a single word to describe it, like "you were my secret-mentor all these years" (just giving a vague idea about what I am seeking).

Consulting a thesaurus for mentor yields: adviser, coach, guide, instructor, teacher, trainer, tutor, and counselor. None of these seem to work.

  • The original Mentor was presumably quite unaware that Athene was impersonating him while coaching Telemachos. – Brian Donovan Jul 28 '16 at 13:42

Consider role model:

a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people.

Unlike mentor, this word does not suggest that the person in question is aware that they are acting as such. In fact, people (for example, celebrities) are often role models for children without their ever knowing it.

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    wasn't the comment sufficient? By answering low quality questions like this (for reputation), we all lose as the good questions get bogged down in the noise – Darshan Chaudhary Jul 28 '16 at 13:07
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    I don't think this is as low quality a question as some of the worst. If you check a thesaurus for "mentor" you might get "role model", but there is still a question about whether or not this word carries a connotation of awareness on the part of its subject. – GoldenGremlin Jul 28 '16 at 13:12
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    Also in the thesaurus Op checked role-model is not present. The question is researched, precise and a commonly available resources do not give the answer. Role-model precisely does not carry the connotation of the model necessarily knowing he's followed. This is a good question, even if the answer is a simple word. Not all questions can be answered by tolfraedic , zygostatical or hirquitalliency . – P. O. Jul 28 '16 at 14:06
  • @P.Obertelli, agreed. But it should be pointed out that I added the reference to the thesaurus in response to DarshanChaudhary's criticism. – GoldenGremlin Jul 28 '16 at 14:16
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    The question is on-topic for ELU. It is also interesting in the sense of seeking a twist on the typical usage of a common term. This answer is supported and makes sense in the context of the question. I have no qualms with either the Q or A. – Lawrence Jul 28 '16 at 14:29

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