What's a word that describes "to prey on someone's guilt".


So say, someone accidentally gets their friend killed and they are feeling guilty for the act. Then someone comes and convinces him to kill himself to further their own means.

  • That second person could conceivably be playing on the killer's guilt (M-W play on to use a situation or emotions such as fear or worry in order to get what you want). Or you might say guilt preyed on the killer's mind, but it's not idiomatic to use prey the way you're suggesting. Apr 9, 2017 at 11:41
  • @FumbleFingers I think it is, since he's using it to his own advantage idioms.thefreedictionary.com/prey+on
    – A. L
    Apr 9, 2017 at 12:05
  • Well, I don't own the English language, so if you think it's idiomatic to use to prey on someone's guilt then feel free to do so. I'd understand what you meant, even if I think it's a non-standard usage. Apr 9, 2017 at 12:13
  • @FumbleFingers How about 'feeding on' someone's emotions?
    – A. L
    Apr 9, 2017 at 12:25
  • I'm very familiar with prey on someone's guilt. (Always said it this way - always heard it this way... as opposed to "play" ) I wonder if it's a regionalism or just malapropism?
    – Oldbag
    Apr 9, 2017 at 12:26

1 Answer 1


This is a form of emotional manipulation.

In terms of manipulating someone by playing to their guilt, you might consider the verb guilt-trip.

From Oxford Dictionary:

Make (someone) feel guilty, especially in order to induce them to do something.

  • Ah, manipulation would be the keyword I'm looking for, thanks.
    – A. L
    Apr 9, 2017 at 14:06

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