I'm looking for a word to describe a younger person that is unknowingly receiving guidance from an older, wiser individual.

The older person could be considered a mentor, and looks upon the younger as his protégé, but the younger doesn't consider their relationship that way.

In his mind, it's just an older friend who shares his stories, and it doesn't necessarily occur to the younger that he is being taught anything, just casual conversations with a friend.

EDIT: Added the tag for a short phrase as well, and an example usage such as:

The wizard's protégé learns of Powers he never dreamed of.

Want to suggest that the protégé is not aware that he is a protégé.

  • 1
    May we expand that to a phrase rather than one word? – Peter Point Oct 1 '16 at 3:41
  • I would prefer a single word, but not sure that there is one. A phrase that isn't too long might work. – GRW Oct 1 '16 at 4:01
  • 1
    It's the requirement of incorporating blissful ignorance on the part of the younger person that's making your question somewhat of a challenge! I'm going to give it more thought. – Peter Point Oct 1 '16 at 4:31
  • Welcome to EL&U. How do you want to use your word? – Lawrence Oct 1 '16 at 16:15
  • Please edit your question. You can add stuff at the tail end of your question, incorporating clarifications and bits of additional information, from the comments, and any additional material you think would be helpful, such as "Sentence words sentence words __________ (the new word will go here) sentence words." – aparente001 Oct 1 '16 at 18:58

I suggest an unwitting mentee. It's two words, but I don't consider that a too long phrase. I think unwitting describes nicely the ignorance of the protégé and mentee is less official than protégé feels.

unwitting: not aware of what is really happening - MW

mentee : one who is being mentored : protégé - MW

  • Google shows 437 hits for 'unwitting protégé' and 1 (soon 2) for your 'unwitting mentee'. – We oath to creation Oct 1 '16 at 16:25
  • @Keepthesemind so neither is really established. – Laetitia Oct 1 '16 at 18:13
  • @Laetitia - Hmmm, I like that. You prompted me to look up some similar words (unknowing, unconscious, unaware, oblivious), but they all feel like the mentee is unknowing in general, not just about the mentee thing. – GRW Oct 1 '16 at 18:47
  • @Laetitia - Also think I like the sound of 'unwitting protégé' better. He may be ignorant of his protégé status, but his mentor is not. I'll have to think on this but I like this. – GRW Oct 1 '16 at 18:50
  • My objection to "mentee" is that the verb form is not "ment", it is "mentor". Parallel construction would direct mentor / mentoree. – Theresa Apr 28 '17 at 0:25

The younger person is in the sphere of influence of the older person. (Of course the ages might not be different -- it might just be a matter of greater or lesser experience.)

If you provide a couple of example sentences, with blanks where the word should go, I might be able to improve on this.


If we flip the point of view, it might be easier.


In his naïveté, the one being protected doesn't know he's being protected. But the one doing the protecting is very aware of this.

  • To use Laetitia's suggestion, something like: The wizard's unwitting protégé learns of Powers he never dreamed of. – GRW Oct 1 '16 at 18:51

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