I mean the person who only has the gut on bullying small guys, but when he faces big guy, he will surrender and give in like a puppet.

'bully' was suggested by someone before, but it obvious is not precise enough. Any suggestion?

If there isn't a single word to describe such a person, what are some idiomatic terms or words for it?

I still feel that 'bully' isn't precise enough in describing a person like that, because a bully could sometimes bully someone bigger than him, it's possible and personally I saw this kind of bully before. Besides, 'bully' doesn't carry the connotation of "when he faces big guy, he will surrender and give in like a puppet."

  • 3
    I don't think there's a single word. Cowardly bully or some similar adjective might be needed
    – Chris H
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 16:54
  • @Chris H thanks. I would like more description of it if provided.
    – user239460
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 17:11
  • 8
    Isn't this always the case for bullying? Bullies bully whomever they think they can get away with bullying.
    – Drew
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 17:39
  • A bulliable bully?
    – user147593
    Commented Jun 18, 2017 at 16:01
  • Bullies "punch down", not up. (Of course, sometimes they're mistaken about up/down, and they quickly turn-coat.)
    – Drew
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 20:27

3 Answers 3


"Bully" does contain the idea of someone who ONLY picks on smaller persons and who won't pick on someone his or her own size, thereby carrying with it the sense you are seeking.

  • +1. But I think the small/large generalization is true in general because it follows from the real criterion: Bullies bully those whom they think they can bully. If someone seems to them difficult to bully (e.g. large) then they move on to someone who seems easier.
    – Drew
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 17:40

Coward comes to mind, but i'm going to go with insecure.

Smaller targets are perfect people to bully since they can be easily bullied (usually) and it brings joy to the bully. But larger targets take a greater amount of work and it may not be as fun for the bully and may cause them more hurt — so they move on to easier targets or give in.

Insecurity can make someone who is generally discontent with themselves feel the need to act out or hurt others to feel better or to boost their ego.

Most bad behavior comes from insecurity


In a sporting context, a phrase that is often used is "flat-track bully." Originating from cricket, where it is much easier for a batsman to score runs on flat pitches, or tracks rather than on more balanced pitches, it is used to describe a sportsperson who dominates against inferior opposition but under-performs against quality opponents.

Long shot, but it might be the usage you were looking for.

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