Is there a word that means dead or dormant/sleeping/inert but potentially alive?


"I carefully approached the __________ [dead, or alive-but-at-rest] mouse in the corner."

Inert or quiescent come close, but they can't also mean definitively dead, if that is found to be the case. If the mouse were found to be dead, "inert" wouldn't be the appropriate word. Is there a word that approximates both simultaneously?

  • Thanks @sumelic! I edited my comment with an example, and a bit more info. Hope that helps.
    – SMc
    Jun 15, 2017 at 2:07
  • Possibly a synonym of inert will work here... Maybe "motionless"?
    – Laurel
    Jun 15, 2017 at 2:11
  • You could also use 'latent'.
    – user147593
    Jun 15, 2017 at 5:24

2 Answers 2


Apart from motionless (as already mentioned in another answer), still , immobile & lifeless work here. Especially, lifeless has the ambiguity you desire. Stationary can be used too but I recall it being used more for inanimate objects.

"I carefully approached the lifeless/still/immobile mouse in the corner."


lifeless ADJECTIVE

1 Dead or apparently dead.

‘When firefighters pulled his lifeless body from the river, his heart wasn't beating and paramedics feared the worst as he was taken to hospital unconscious.’


1 Not moving or making a sound.
‘the still body of the young man’

immobile ADJECTIVE

1 Not moving; motionless.

‘The body is so mute, so immobile that one might think she is dead.’


I'd be inclined to use "motionless". Even a living creature has slight movements (e.g. respiration).

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