I'm looking for a suitable word to describe a computer application user, who has no administrator privileges. To contextualize this, the application relates to the management of skills/abilities within a business environment, and this would be a level of access whereby a person could see their own data only.

The context is as follows:

Level  Term           Description
3      Super User     Highest level of access
2      Administrator  Medium/custom-level of access
1      ?????          Basic access

I found a similar question here, but the context is different and therefore the suggestions are not appropriate.

Words that have been considered but deemed unsuitable are:

  • User - too general, and a Super User and Administrator are also "users", so this was confusing
  • Basic - not contextual enough, and maybe construed as relating to "stupid"
  • Standard - not contextual enough
  • Student - the software is not academic, and this relates too closely to education
  • General - best so far
  • 3
    Why is user too general? typically, the higher levels encompass the lower ones. A Super User probably has the same rights as an Administrator, and then some, right? and he probably also has the rights a normal user also has.
    – Polygnome
    Jul 28, 2017 at 10:26
  • 5
    It's user. All users are users, but some have special privileges - like the super user.
    – Davo
    Jul 28, 2017 at 11:04
  • 2
    If you relax the single-word requirement (as is the case for Super User) then combining your first two considerations would be my suggestion: Basic User.
    – TripeHound
    Jul 28, 2017 at 11:04
  • 3
    Windows, Linux and MacOS use 'standard user' and 'administrator'. Jul 28, 2017 at 11:13
  • 2
    @Polygnome And if someone asked “What do you call any animal that is not a cow?”, would you consider animal an accurate answer? Would you consider, “No, that’s not an animal; it’s a cow” or “That’s a cow; it’s not an animal” to make sense? Ignoring the fact that I don’t think there is a word that encompasses all animals except cows, that seems wildly inaccurate to me. Using a generic word for a broad category to refer specifically to one particular subsection of that same category, excluding other subsections, is exceedingly likely to cause confusion. Jul 28, 2017 at 16:14

2 Answers 2


This is often called an unprivileged user.

The Linux man page for user_namespaces starts:

User namespaces isolate security-related identifiers and attributes, in particular, user IDs and group IDs (see credentials(7)), the root directory, keys (see keyrings(7)), and capabilities (see capabilities(7)). A process's user and group IDs can be different inside and outside a user namespace. In particular, a process can have a normal unprivileged user ID outside a user namespace while at the same time having a user ID of 0 inside the namespace; in other words, the process has full privileges for operations inside the user namespace, but is unprivileged for operations outside the namespace.

Microsoft's security best practices include headers that use similar terms:

Creating Unprivileged Accounts to Manage Privileged Accounts

Apple refers to unprivileged applications in security bulletins:

By registering for a hotkey event, an unprivileged application could log keystrokes entered into other applications even when secure input mode was enabled. This issue was addressed by additional validation of hotkey events.


As is the case with many IT related terminologies, there is room for interpretation here. There is no established ruleset specific to IT. Though conventions may exists, they are not yet implemented to a level of anything non-conventional being considered flatout incorrect.

Some feedback on your ideas

User - too general, and a Super User and Administrator are also "users", so this was confusing

I disagree here. "User" is perfect. If I say the following:

The party was attended by employees and managers alike.

A manager is still a (type of) employee!

Similarly, just because an administrator is inherently a user, does not preclude the common inference that when you say "user", you mean "those who are only users".
Though you are correct that that is not explicitly stated, it is a fairly obvious implication, often made even clearer by the surrounding context in which it is used.

I honestly think "user" is the best answer here.

Basic - not contextual enough, and maybe construed as relating to "stupid"

OED link

"Common to or required by everyone; primary and ineradicable or inalienable."

According to IT, everyone is a user. It literally means "anyone who is using a computer" (or other device). Therefore, "basic user" is applicable.

I don't agree with your notion of "basic user" implying a stupid user. If you were to say "simple user", however, I do think that inference can possibly be made.

Standard - not contextual enough

In my opinion, it is contextual enough. However, consider using "default" over "standard", as it is slightly more common in the field of IT.

Student - The software is not academic, relates too closely to education

I agree, this is not relevant.

General - best so far

I don't agree. "general" is way too broad. Also, consider the definition of the word "general":

OED link

"Affecting or concerning all or most people or things; widespread."

"General" means "the most common", not "the most basic". If you have a company where there are more administrators than normal users, then administrators can be considered to be the general users.

Some additions from me

Default users

Relatively similar to "standard", meaning that this type of user is the entry point for users. "Default" seems more common in the context of IT, compared to "standard".

Generic users

This suggestion again relies on the idea that administrators are still part of the group of users. They are a subset, not a separate group, and that distinction is incredibly important in the field of IT.

OED link

"Characteristic of, or relating to a class or group of things; not specific."

In your case, "generic user" means "any type of user". It is logically implied that when many types of users are addressed at the same time, that you are expected to treat them by their common denominator.

Logically speaking, the most common denominator of "all users" is equal to "the most basic level of user".

A user (who is not an Administrator)
A user (who has no elevated rights)

This suggestion is based on your specific context.

In my experience as a software developer, this is very common in documentation regarding the security access. This can be extended to describing the visibility of information, your specific scenario.

Keep in mind that such documentation is often read by IT personnel, who are logically minded. A logical inversion ("not having X") is more clear than the addition of another defined role.

When you use a named definition (e.g. standard user), you allow for the implication that a "standard user" is an established (explicitly named) role. You can avoid such an unintended implication by using a logical inversion that describes what you mean.


Other than "student", every option listed here is valid. The issues you bring forward are not necessarily incorrect, but I do consider them nitpicky; I highly doubt that people will focus in the inherent meaning of the word rather than the meaning you're trying to convey.

However, as "user" conveys the correct meaning here, it seems superfluous to have add a further description. In the interest of brevity where it doesn't affect the clarity of the message, I advocate simply using "user".

As a general rule for IT, especially in the case of clear communication, I would suggest you adhere to the following:

Where possible, always avoid using named definitions, if an accurate description can be used in its place.

Names can change more easily than descriptions.

  • Given that these basic users (that is by far the best option in my view) are actually explicitly contrasted with super users, I disagree that user by itself is good. In your parallel example, it would be like saying that the party was attended by employees and senior employees alike—awkward and not intuitive. There is also the difference that employee has an inherent aspect of ‘non-executive’, which user doesn’t. To call an managing director an employee may not be formally inaccurate, but it would sound strange to most; conversely, calling an admin a user is quite normal. Jul 28, 2017 at 15:54
  • Also, default users is similar to general users (and generic users) in that it does not specifically say that these are entry-level users with no special rights. In a system where all users are made administrators by default (and must be manually demoted to have admin rights taken away from them), administrators would be default users too. It probably works in most cases, but not everywhere. Jul 28, 2017 at 15:56
  • I think that "default user" is misleading, because "default" usually refers to the option you use when no other choice has been made. In other words, its their role, or their privileges, that are default, not the user themselves. I'd favour "standard" or "regular" personally. Jul 28, 2017 at 15:57
  • @MaxWilliams "the option you use when no other choice has been made" that's sort of the reason why I'm arguing that it's valid. It is the default user state (in regards to rights) that any user starts off with. Further rights will only be granted when needed, and that will be evaluated on a case by case basis (therefore they are not default)
    – Flater
    Jul 28, 2017 at 20:37
  • @Flater "default user state" is fine, but "default user" sounds like a completely different thing - it sounds like you're talking about a specific user account which you use as a default somewhere. Like "Which user did you use with the tests? Oh just the default user." Jul 31, 2017 at 7:55

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