What is a word for someone who knows what they are doing will hurt others financially, physically, and emotionally greatly but does it anyway for financial gain?

  • 1
    I'd call that "callous indifference" but it's not a single word
    – samgak
    Apr 17, 2018 at 23:55
  • 2
    Unscrupulous, unprincipled refer to lack of moral standards or conscience to guide one's conduct. The unscrupulous person is without scruples of conscience, and disregards, or has contempt for, laws of right or justice with which he or she is perfectly well acquainted, and which should restrain his or her actions: unscrupulous in methods of making money, in dictionary.com/browse/unscrupulous
    – Tom22
    Apr 18, 2018 at 0:00
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    The description is of a sociopath .
    – user862888
    Apr 18, 2018 at 0:48
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    @DJohnson sociopath is a broader disorder that could and often can apply to people who also commit murder sometimes even for sadistic pleasure. Also, I believe it clinically suggest that they have no empathy whatsoever. I believe that many crooks go to great pains to justify their actions they know will have consequences and that are illegal and many might have family that they love and friendships they honor in a compartmentalized way ... or might even be capable of remorse. A sociopath feels no guilt.. they feel nothing. Some crooks are sociopaths though certainly.
    – Tom22
    Apr 18, 2018 at 2:50
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    @DJohnson "A psychopath doesn’t have a conscience. If he lies to you so he can steal your money, he won’t feel any moral qualms, though he may pretend to. He may observe others and then act the way they do so he’s not “found out,” L. Michael Tompkins, EdD. webmd.com/mental-health/features/… Apr 18, 2018 at 3:12

3 Answers 3


A word that encompassed all of the description in your questions is "mercenary". It can be used in many moral contexts.



The proper term is:


often synonymous with


But the public understanding of what these mean leaves it open to misinterpretation. They are not people who necessarily who go around hurting other people, but the traits commonly found in these people correlate to such actions. The most dangerous trait is antisocial personality. Sociopaths usually exhibit, to differing extents:
Lack of empathy
Higher levels of Machiavellianism
Higher levels of narcissism

Psychologist Paul Babiak wrote a book called Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work. He says psychopathy and sociopathy are often used synonymously but prefers sociopathy because psychopathy is more likely to be confused with psychotic. The book is basically about how sociopaths further their careers through selfish preoccupations at the expense of others.
Snakes in Suits

What's more, there is a Wikipedia article on psychopathy in the workplace: Psychopathy in the Workplace

According to psychologist Kevin Dutton the professions with highest amounts of these sorts of people are:
2 Lawyer
3 Media (TV/radio)
4 Salesperson
5 Surgeon
6 Journalist
7 Police officer
8 Clergy
9 Chef
10 Civil servant

Careers with highest proportion of psychopaths

Make of all that what you will. Again, I stress, in the psychology/psychiatry world these have specific meanings these people may rank higher or lower in certain traits, and generally aren't completely remorseless or have violent tendencies.

Having said that, if those two words seem too strong, then maybe you can call them:

a Machiavelli
a cunning, amoral, and opportunist person, esp a politician
Collins English Dictionary

a snake

A treacherous or deceitful person.
‘that man is a cold-blooded snake’
Oxford Living Dictionaries


Here I think a great word would be "self-serving." From dictionary.com: 'adjective preoccupied with one's own interests, often disregarding the truth or the interests, well-being, etc., of others.'

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