I am looking for a word or words to describe someone who does not give praise or credit to others too readily.

To expand on what I'm looking for, imagine a Martial Arts Master teaching his Student a specific move. The Student gets the very basic concept of the move right but it does not satisfy his Master. The Master will refuse to praise his Students efforts and insists he practices more.

The student practises the move for days with his Master without any praise from his Master until one day he executes the move to his master sanctification. Only then does the Master give praise, and even then the praise is restrained.

Back to reality. I could say the master is very tough and unforgiving with his teaching practices, but the words tough and unforgiving require context for them to have any real meaning. So the word has to be understood on it's own.

Another way to look at it is in terms of facebook Likes. There are people who will like everything their friends post even if it's very insignificant, for example, posting a picture of their cat asleep. On the other hand there are others who would not click like or comment because a picture of cat sleeping is not something they would waste precocious praise on.

I hope I have given you guys any idea of what I am looking for and that a word exist in the English language. If it doesn't then who do I have to speak to to the invent one


3 Answers 3


Not a single word, but your question reminds me of a teacher I had during my fellowship who was described by everyone as "hard to please".

  • hard to please, demanding, requiring more than usually expected or thought due; especially great patience and effort and skill. TFD

From the web:

  • "...trainees knew him as a hard-to-please teacher who expected them to work as hard as he did."
  • "his father was a hard-to-please taskmaster."
  • "They all think a great deal of him because he is so hard to please, and almost any of them would feel immensely flattered if he liked them."
  • "How spending second grade with a hard-to-please teacher may end up teaching my daughter one of life's most important lessons."

I don't think there is a single word for someone who is reluctant to give praise or positive strokes, but an apt expression for the type of teacher you describe might be:


This word has too senses: "mean, miserly, ungenerous"; and, "rigid, repressed, or conventional". A teacher who only gives praise for a perfect performance is a tight-ass in both senses.

As a bonus, it is similar to hard-ass, which describes many martial arts teachers.

Also, although you'd have to give some context (she's a tight-ass, when it comes to giving praise), that's true of the word in general, because of its inherent ambiguity.


I use the word 'unrewarding' to describe someone who is stingy with praise and only ever gives encouragement reluctantly. It is dispiriting to work for such a person.

Generally, the word 'unrewarding' is used of the work itself. But it can be - and is - used of persons as well.

The book Nonverbal Communication, for example, describes responses from others toward an 'unrewarding person' and toward 'unrewarding partners'.

Social Psychology and Dysfunctional Behavior also uses the term 'unrewarding partner'.

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