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I am looking for a word or phrase to describe a person who actually has an opinion, but doesn't share it. For example, a person who is unhappy with something (e.g. situation at work) and may complain to friends but never says a word when it matters.

The word I'm looking for has nothing in common with shyness or hypocrisy, it's just the person would rather stay silent than to say something.

Thank you.

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    This sort of thing depends too much on the environment - several people I know are in situations where the best word is 'prudent'. – Jeff Zeitlin Aug 22 '17 at 18:38
  • When you say, "It doesn't have anything in common with shyness or hypocrisy [...]," what do you mean? What motivates the person to behave this way? The person might be introverted and prefer talking to people he or she knows well, or the person might be a hypocrite who complains about something and then refuses to take action to change it. There are a lot of other words that might apply with more detail. – R Mac Aug 22 '17 at 19:12
  • I think you can probably get the question re-opened by supplying a sample sentence. // passive, lump on a log, paralyzed, impotent, someone who complains but doesn't do anything about it. – aparente001 Aug 23 '17 at 1:19
  • I’m tired of lighting candles; I’m just going to curse the darkness for a while now. – Scott Aug 23 '17 at 1:45
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It may depend on the reason for the silence. It could be to maintain something to oneself for use at a moment of best advantage. In this respect, I have heard: He keeps his powder dry.

It is from the maxim attributed to Oliver Cromwell of Trust in the Lord, my boys, and keep your powder dry.

Gunpowder, when damp, was useless. So keeping something to oneself, so one can use the information at a moment of one's own choosing, rather than someone else's, is analogous to "keeping one's powder dry".

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@JeffZeitlin is correct that the correct word will often depend on the circumstances. But one word I'm fond of is taciturn:

Taciturn: temperamentally disinclined to talk

Regrettably, the weakness of my preference is that a taciturn person is always quiet, whether they have an opinion or not.


On a side note, allow me to point out an issue concerning your example. A person who has an opinion that he or she is willing to share with friends but not (e.g.) with the employer over a situation at work is fearful. Such a person is afraid of the consequence of speaking out when it matters.

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The person is either cautious or discreet. Cautious: careful to avoid danger or risks (I say risk might be considered if someone is ALWAYS careful either in work or daily life. Cautious will be a common word for it) Discreet: careful about what you say or do, so that you do not offend, upset, or embarrass people or tell secrets (I may say it's driven by a kind emotion, if you feel comfortable with someone's "LESS" words)

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    Welcome to English Language & Usage! We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Please explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed. – NVZ Aug 22 '17 at 20:37

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