What's a word for someone who is generally good but might perform without a blink of an eye a sin of sorts, if it is for someone who is powerful, out of awe and admiration for that person and their name in society.

So for example a social worker who knows a family is treating their children badly but despite the fact that the children beg her to help, because she knows the family is rich and powerful and there is a sort of non-spoken agreement that these people can get away with anything, she does nothing...

Hope that makes any sense.

example: She knew Madeleine was suffering there, but one glance at her mother in the hall, arranging her gold necklace reminded her that it was nothing to worry about. She left the house with a positive written review that was left with no weight on her conscience, and out of pure __________.

  • It almost sounds like a pawn, but I don't think that is exactly what you are looking for. Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 6:34
  • She may just be afraid to intervene in the affairs of the rich and powerful.
    – NVZ
    Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 6:38
  • 2
    Possibly a lackey (definition 1.1), but it may be too narrow for your description.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 7:21
  • 1
    One thing that's a little confusing to me is that in the title, you ask for a word for this person, but in the example sentence, the word seems to refer to the quality that this person possesses. Would you be satisfied with either type of word?
    – herisson
    Commented Aug 13, 2016 at 3:01
  • 2
    There is a very specific term for someone whose job is to protect someone or something but but chooses not to intervene (for whatever reason) when someone else is threatening that person or thing: connivance. The Merriam-Webster definition is "the act of conniving [where connive means 'to pretend ignorance of or fail to take action against something one ought to oppose'] : esp. : knowledge of and active or passive consent to wrongdoing." As for the conniver's being "generally good," it's tempting to characterize that as fair-weather virtue.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Aug 13, 2016 at 5:15

6 Answers 6


Check if sycophant(ic) fits.

Though it does not explicitly mean "someone who is generally good", it does mean someone who "might perform without a blink of an eye a sin of sorts, if it is for someone who is powerful". Also, the definition of sycophant does not explicitly exclude "someone who is generally good". You can also check one of the synonyms from ODO (reproduced below).

From dictionary.cambridge.org:

sycophantic adjective; formal disapproving

(of a person or of behaviour) praising people in authority in a way that is not sincere, usually in order to get some advantage from them:

There was sycophantic laughter from the audience at every one of his terrible jokes.

sycophant noun

The prime minister is surrounded by sycophants.

From ODO:

sycophant NOUN

A person who acts obsequiously towards someone important in order to gain advantage.

Example sentences:

An assortment of hatchet men, opportunists and sycophants gained access to the levers of power.

There will be several servile sycophants who will come forward as ‘White Knights’ to regain their lost positions.

Only the most sycophantic of the sycophants would even begin to make such a comparison. [In the past] there was at least a real enemy, there were real things to be done.


toady, creep, crawler, fawner, flatterer, flunkey, truckler, groveller, doormat, lickspittle, kowtower, obsequious person, minion, hanger-on, leech, puppet, spaniel, Uriah Heep

informal bootlicker, yes-man

vulgar slang arse-licker, arse-kisser, brown-nose

North American vulgar slang suckhole


As a single-word-request, there might not be a perfect word that specifies "giving in to an authority".

More general words include

If the connotation is that the person doesn't want to do it but is doing it out of fear of reprecussions:

  • Impressionable
  • Meek
  • Weak-willed

If the connotation is that the person is doing it because they have an agreement with the authority figure:

  • Corrupt
  • A lackey or servant

In your example, though you specify that the person has no weight on her conscience by her action of doing as the authority figure wants, which points to someone who isn't meek, but is more cold-hearted or unfeeling. In such context you might want to be more descriptive than a single word and specify why the person has no weight on her conscience.

"She left the house [...] and, out of pure selfishness, had no weight on her conscience because the repercussions of acting against the mother would have far outweighed any feeling of good-doing that helping Madeleine could have given her."


The behaviour of indulging the wrongdoing of authority is actually so common, that it is a person displaying the opposite behaviour who is called by a specific term: whistleblower.

Historically the failure to report a criminal offence was itself a criminal offence called misprision, but the term is now as archaic as the obligation.

A catch-all term nowadays would probably be a collaborator, which is capable of not only including those who actively assist or cover-up, but those who wilfully turn a blind eye, including through approval, blameworthy weakness of character, or a wrong ordering of moral priorities.



traitor - person who is not loyal to his or her own country, friends, etc. : a person who betrays a country or group of people by helping or supporting an enemy

treachery - Guilty of or involving betrayal or deception


myrmidon - a person who executes without scruples his master's commands, like the teacher the chairman of our department kept reappointing to the personnel committee.


That person can be considered meek

quiet, gentle, and easily imposed on; submissive.

The action itself may be performed out of cowardice

lack of bravery.

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