I was wondering if there are some words that describe the characteristic of some person that does not keep up with some supposed pace.

For example, in orchestra performance by a team, one performer playing his instrument always lags behind by a certain amount of time.

Another example, unlike other students, a student seldom ask questions in classes. But he asks a lot of questions after classes. The reason is that he needs more time to think in classes than other students, so not able to keep up with the paces of the classes and not to say to ask questions (although I don't think it is a bad thing).

  • 4
    What's wrong with lag, which you used in your first example? – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Sep 20 '11 at 15:24
  • Nothing. I would like to know other similar words. How about the second example? – Tim Sep 20 '11 at 15:26
  • So you want synonyms for "lag"? – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Sep 20 '11 at 15:28
  • It seems like he wants words to describe the character of such a person, not the act itself. – user13141 Sep 20 '11 at 15:28
  • @onomatomaniak: Yes. Actually, I more like to know for the second example. – Tim Sep 20 '11 at 15:29

You could call the person a laggard, or say that they are always playing catch-up, always bringing up the rear, running behind, falling behind, not keeping up, or that they are consistently delayed. These all have negative connotations.

You could also say that they 'march to a different tune' or 'march to the beat of a different drum', or 'do things in their own time', which can be positive or negative depending on how they're used.


The usual synonyms for "slow" tend toward negative connotations. To put a more positive spin on this, I would look for synonyms around "conscientious," "exacting," "painstaking," "deliberate," considered," "meticulous, "cautious," and the like. And, yes, @FrustratedWithFormsDesigner, "contemplative" would be another excellent search root.


I think a typical way to describe such a student is as "a slow learner." (See this article). It's not the most eloquent of phrases, but it's commonly used.

  • Thanks! What do you mean by "eloquent"? – Tim Sep 20 '11 at 15:38
  • Also, how about the reason is not that he is slower at learning things, but that he does not quite just learn something just as it is, but try to find relation with other things especially what have been learned before ( kind of tendency of perfectionism). – Tim Sep 20 '11 at 15:41
  • For instance, I think "a ponderous student" is a more eloquent phrase - it displays verbal elegance as well as meaning. When I say "a slow learner" isn't an eloquent phrase, I mean that it's a simple (but here, practical) formation. – user13141 Sep 20 '11 at 15:42
  • So does an eloquent phrase mean euphemism? – Tim Sep 20 '11 at 15:58

He's always playing catch-up.

  • Is its meaning positive, neutral and/or negative? – Tim Sep 20 '11 at 16:04
  • I would say that it is neutral, except that the "always" can make it sound like a chronic problem. You could say "he needs to play catch-up", which would soften that. – JeffSahol Sep 20 '11 at 16:06

Words you could use are "contemplative", also implying that the student appears slow because they spend so much more time contemplating the lesson; and maybe "meditative", though it may not work as well in this context.

  • -1 Ponderous - Slow and clumsy because of great weight, dull, laborious, or excessively solemn. It's always extremely negative. – FumbleFingers Sep 20 '11 at 21:28

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