I'm looking for a word to describe a role or an office or something like that, which is filled by one person at once, but that person can change. Sort of "moniker" but in reverse. Think "James Bond" or Doctor Who", where the identity continues, even though the actual individuals change. When we say "The King is dead. Long Live the King", that's the idea - we can ask "Who is the King?", or we can say "He is Maclean of Maclean".

If Bruce Wayne got too old and stiff to be Batman any more, he'd pass his ___ [what?] to his protege.

I've thought of "Title" or Crown", but title has too many other meanings to be useful to me (and is "James Bond" a title anyway?). But its not a "Role" either - being King isn't a role!

So, I'm looking for a word which encapsulates this idea of transferable identity.

Any thoughts?

  • Successionary exists as an adjective. But it doesn't normally describe the position so much as the context around a succession such as successionary drama or successionary provision. So I'm not sure if that works here or not. It's not a common word, either.
    – Phil Sweet
    Apr 15, 2018 at 13:42
  • 21
    Why do you say that being a king is not a role?
    – barbecue
    Apr 15, 2018 at 19:36
  • 2
    Do you see no differences among Dr Who, James Bond and Batman? Broadly if Bruce Wayne got too old and stiff and wanted to pass anything to his protege that would be his identity and yes, it is that simple. Please be a lot more clear about whether you’re trying to describe an identity which can be filled by more than one individual at the same time, or in sequence or what? Apr 15, 2018 at 19:47
  • 1
    role appears to be the best, but OP rules it out.
    – lbf
    Apr 15, 2018 at 21:39
  • 8
    King certainly is a role! Apr 16, 2018 at 0:03

13 Answers 13


Consider the possibility of mantle. The original meaning was of a cloak or similar garment that symbolized a position of authority. For example, in heraldry, royalty added a mantle behind the escutcheon to illustrate their royal authority.

Over time, the word took on a more figurative meaning of taking on responsibility, of bearing the weight of the mantle on one's shoulders. Consider the first of the definitions offered by M-W:

1 a : a loose sleeveless garment worn over other clothes : cloak

b : a figurative cloak symbolizing preeminence or authority accepted the mantle of leadership

I think it works for all of your examples, and more:

  • Pierce Brosnan has taken the mantle of portraying James Bond.
  • Little George will one day have the mantle of King of England.
  • Bruce Wayne passed the mantle of Batman to Dick Grayson.
  • Peter Capaldi held the mantle of Doctor Who quite well.
  • Tim Cook, in his mantle as Apple CEO, has...
  • etc.
  • 7
    Worth noting that the figurative sense goes back to Elijah and Elisha, so it's at least about 2500 years old. Apr 15, 2018 at 19:09
  • 1
    This is probably the best answer, it suggests dignity and an element of ritual in the transfer of the role.
    – barbecue
    Apr 15, 2018 at 19:50
  • 4
    The actual "mantle of Batman" has a name though, it's the Batsuit. So you could say "Bruce Wayne passed the Batsuit to Dick Grayson". This works because the identity of Batman is the Batsuit: without the Batsuit he's just Bruce Wayne.
    – Richard
    Apr 16, 2018 at 8:28
  • 4
    @Richard yeah, in that case, the Batsuit would be a synecdoche representing the entire Batman persona. The same idea could be used for any case where the role being transferred includes an iconic or symbolic object, such as Batman/Batsuit, Dr. Who/Tardis, King/Crown, Sheriff/Badge, etc.
    – barbecue
    Apr 16, 2018 at 17:28
  • 2
    I believe "mantle" in this context is actually widely used in superhero comic books themselves, so it especially fits for the Batman example. Apr 16, 2018 at 20:16


...added after-the-fact: I see that in the question I missed where you said:

But its not a "Role" either - being King isn't a role!

Due respect, yes, being king is a role. I'll leave the answer below, as it may suit others and I appear to have a fair bit of company on that point, but it's not going to be the answer you'll pick. :-)

Original answer

role would fit, though you'd probably use "the" rather than "his"

If Bruce Wayne got too old and stiff to be Batman any more, he'd pass the role to his protege.

oxforddictionaries.com: role

The function assumed or part played by a person or thing in a particular situation.

Collins: role:

(BrE) usual or customary function

(AmE) a function or office assumed by someone

Merriam-Webster: role:

a function or part performed especially in a particular operation or process

Meta: Marking CW because frankly, if the OP says "role" in the question, posting it in an answer shouldn't garner rep...

  • The OP seeks something posh and unique and simple clear words don't fit the purpose. Apr 17, 2018 at 16:51
  • 1
    @JoãoPimentelFerreira: I don't see anything about being "posh" in the question, but I do see: "But its not a "Role" either - being King isn't a role!" which I missed before (edit history says it was there, so that's on me). So, while like Michael Hampton I disagree with the OP (being king is a role), apparently they're not looking for this answer. :-) Apr 17, 2018 at 17:25
  • @JoãoPimentelFerreira: BTW: Thanks for making me look at the question again. Stupid thing to have missed. Apr 17, 2018 at 17:29
  • 1
    I was being ironic. Your answer is The answer, in my humble opinion. Apr 17, 2018 at 17:47

That word can be baton which is figuratively equivalent to the thing the players pass on in a relay race.

If Bruce Wayne got too old and stiff to be Batman any more, he'd pass the baton to his protege.



1.1 A short stick or tube passed from runner to runner in a relay race.

‘Minutes later he was back to hand the baton to the next runner who set off towards Smithy Bridge as smiling onlookers applauded and yelled their support.’

pass (on) the baton [Phrase]

Hand over a particular duty or responsibility.

‘But after 18 years as head coach, Clive Marshall has passed the baton to John Bates and become director of rugby.’

  • 3
    No. 'Pass the baton' is the idiom; 'baton' doesn't have the meaning OP requests (in a SWR). The title question isn't answered by 'baton'. Apr 16, 2018 at 19:14
  • 1
    Oh why? Using the word and it's meaning is exactly how the idiom is born, don't you think? And using the word makes the example sentence idiomatic. I did mention that the word figuratively means what the OP wants. Apr 16, 2018 at 19:25
  • When I ask for apples at the greengrocers, he doesn't give me oranges saying they're good to eat. Apr 16, 2018 at 19:29
  • 3
    @EdwinAshworth I'm not sure I agree with you here. Yes, 'Pass the baton' is the original idiom, but you could also say "Tim Cook took the baton and now leads Apple" or "Pierce Brosnan will take the baton in the role of James Bond" or etc. The baton is being passed, but the specific language of 'pass the baton' isn't necessary, just something signifying that a baton is exchanging hands (whether it be taken, passed, held, given, or whatever else). I think this answer meets the OP's request. This is different from 'Pass the torch', which doesn't seem to fit without the full idiom.
    – Doc
    Apr 17, 2018 at 22:10
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth For what it's worth, that was almost my internal monologue on reading the question :). Crown, mantle, and title all require a phrase to work in this context (to my ears anyway), but they also all work with multiple phrases (pass, take up, snatch, and possibly others). At some point these become very close to single words that answer the question. Apr 18, 2018 at 17:50

Pass the torch

"If Bruce Wayne got too old and stiff to be Batman any more, he'd pass the torch on to his ward, Justin Bieber."

Metaphor originally referred to ancient Greek torch racing, but is very commonly used to mean an elder person is stepping down and giving his responsibilities to another.

Also consider handing over the reins or, for the person accepting the responsibility, taking the reins. This metaphor refers to the literal handing of reins to a horse from one rider to another, thus passing on responsibility for the horse. It's more likely to be used for a company or piece of property than for a role however.

"If Bruce Wayne got too old and stiff to be Batman any more, he'd hand the reins over to his ward, Selena Gomez."

"Selena Gomez knew that once Bruce Wayne got too old, she would take the reins as Batman."

  • 1
    No; OP asks for a single word and 'torch' doesn't work outside the metaphor. Apr 16, 2018 at 19:15
  • 2
    Oh dear god in heaven... what is it with the pedantic nit-picking?
    – barbecue
    Apr 18, 2018 at 12:54
  • There is a discussion on this point on meta: Should I downvote multi word answers on single-word-requests?. sumelic's answer is the most upvoted, and he recommends that if OP mentions 'word' elsewhere in the text, this should be respected. A request for OP to edit is a possible way round this; this is acceptable according to ELU regulations. Tags are used for a purpose; if you consider them to encourage nitpicking, take it up on meta yourself. Apr 18, 2018 at 13:58
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth not sure what you read, but I just read that answer, and it does NOT say that. Unless you edit out most of the answer, you cannot possibly say that it justifies your position.\
    – barbecue
    Apr 18, 2018 at 15:35
  • Ultimately, votes are (always) a personal matter. @EdwinAshworth can downvote because the question asked for a single-word answer and he doesn’t consider a multi-word suggestion to be a useful answer to that question. He can, in fact, downvote for any reason he likes—or for no reason at all. Likewise, I can upvote because I consider this a good, helpful suggestion, much superior to some offered here.
    – KRyan
    Apr 18, 2018 at 15:48


2 A position of authority or service, typically one of a public nature.
‘the office of chief constable’

2.1 [mass noun] Tenure of an official position, especially that of a Minister of State or of the party forming the government.
‘a year ago, when the President took office’
‘he was ejected from office in 1988’


  • 6
    This works for "office of Minister of Interior" and "office of CEO of Acme Inc." but not so much for "office of Batman" or "office of Doctor Who" and I'm not sure about "office of King of Maedupia."
    – cobaltduck
    Apr 15, 2018 at 12:51


  1. anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor: the legacy of ancient Rome.

  2. inheritance

Word Origin and History for legacy n.

late 14c., "body of persons sent on a mission," from Old French legatie "legate's office," from Medieval Latin legatia, from Latin legatus "ambassador, envoy," noun use of past participle of legare "appoint by a last will, send as a legate" (see legate ).

Sense of "property left by will" appeared in Scottish mid-15c.

  • This is also the term often used to describe superheroes who have had multiple identities in comics. The Phantom, for example, is a legacy character.
    – trlkly
    Apr 16, 2018 at 0:50
  • Legacy doesn't encompass the role per se, just what you pass over Apr 17, 2018 at 16:55

position TFD

  1. Social standing or status; rank.
  2. A post of employment; a job.
  • This should replace identity in the title so that the word duty can answer the question. +1
    – Mazura
    Apr 17, 2018 at 17:50

The word persona is often used in this capacity.

From ODO:

persona [noun]

1 The aspect of someone's character that is presented to or perceived by others.

‘her public persona’

1.1 A role or character adopted by an author or an actor.


This extensive immersion into the role of the Joker and the creative process of Ledger to create the persona of the Joker aligns ...

{What's Creative?}

So far, the James Bonds we have seen are all quite similar: [they are] white, British (see Edit) and can fit the persona of James Bond ...


  • 5
    No, this word does not fit the example sentence. No one passes a persona. Apr 16, 2018 at 19:26
  • I assume that was an example giving a sample sentence rather than a defining frame. Note that 'baton' doesn't work after 'his'. Apr 17, 2018 at 22:21
  • 1
    How does it not work? And yes, I'll concede that the is more usual than his, but it's certainly his baton before he passes it. It's in his hands! Apr 19, 2018 at 15:00
  • @Will Crawford Idioms resist even rudimentary variations. Would you say 'He kicked his bucket'? 'Pass on her baton' has less than 1% of the Google hits 'pass on the baton' does. Apr 19, 2018 at 23:51
  • There are a lot of pass on the [something] baton results, but Google does tend to agree with you on this one :o) although [his|her|their] baton does appear, it’s relatively uncommon. Apr 20, 2018 at 0:44

The term in question can be as simple as the noun duty, which basically means responsibility or more precisely something that one must necessarily do as part of their job. However, note that the use of this term shifts focus from the identity aspect of whoever it is that we're talking about to the actual job (or position) itself:

If Bruce Wayne got too old and stiff to be Batman anymore, he'd pass his duty (or his duty of being Batman) to his protégé.

Although duty of being Batman is not a single word, it does shift focus back from the job aspect of the situation to the identity one.


I'm looking for a word to describe a role or an office or something like that, which is filled by one person at once, but that person can change.

Instead of a noun which must be used after "pass", why not a single verb that replaces both the OP's suggested verb and the noun?

If Bruce Wayne got too old and stiff to be Batman any more, he'd be succeeded by his protege.

  1. b. To replace another in office or position: The prince succeeded to the throne. (TFD)
  2. Take over a throne, office, or other position from: ‘At the age of 42 Moores is ideally positioned to succeed Fletcher as England coach when the time comes.’ (EOD)

Not quite hitting the tag, but I suggest:

Alter ego


the part of someone's personality that is not usually seen by other people

Sample sentence:

Superman is Clark Kent's alter ego.

Usage in your sentence:

If Bruce Wayne got too old and stiff to be Batman any more, he'd pass his alter ego to his protege.

Source: Cambridge dictionary


In the Orthodox Jewish world, where jobs such as Rosh Yeshiva get passed down all the time, there's a word specific to your exact situation: Shteller.

If Bruce Wayne got too old and stiff to be Batman any more, he'd pass on his shteller to his protege.



Let's face it - we're all replaceable. From Bill Gates retiring from Microsoft to The Dread Pirate Roberts settling down with the farm girl of his dreams, everyone retires at some point (unless they drop dead first, which is sad but leads to the same issues). And then it's a matter of enumerating job requirements, identifying candidates, conducting interviews ("So, tell me, Mr. Barbarian - where do you see yourself in five years?"), deciding who'll be The Right Fit ("Well, personally, I liked the barbarian, but...well...you know how they are - all that quaffing! We don't want to find ourselves with any substance abuse issues on our hands, that's all I'm saying!"), and finally making a job offer ("Yes, that's right - we get a 90% cut of all your loot. Yes, we handle crew recruitment, ship upkeep and maintenance, dockage fees, weapon sharpening, and etc. All you do is risk your life. I think you'll see it's a very fair arrangement!"), and finally, welcoming the newcomer on the exciting first day of work ("Welcome, Mr. Barbarian - or should I say 'Mr. Dread Pirate Roberts'? Haw-haw, haw-haw!"). But, sadly, sometimes you find that your new-hire doesn't fit in with the corporate culture ("Scupper that, ye scurvy HR swab! Now, walk the plank, then me an' the lads are off to lay a course for the Seven Seas!!!").

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