Not sure if this is the best place to ask, so let me know :)

I'm working on a story idea that features a parasite similar to Halo's Flood, and the Necromorphs from the Dead Space games. Although the parasite has the 'goal' of absorbing all life in the galaxy, it is not necessarily 'aware'. It is meant to be a sort of Lovecraftian deal, with it being no more aware of Humanity than a Human is of bacteria, at least before we invented the microscope.

Given that the Parasite is deliberately malevolent, what is the best word to describe it? I'm looking for a word that encapsulates the same kind of danger as a storm or other natural phenomena, in the sense that a storm doesn't 'care' if it kills you, but without implying randomness or lack of agency. I also don't mind the word not being English, as the concept may be better expressed by another language that doesn't directly translate.

If you are familiar with the Babylon 5 TV series it would be a word that describes the encounter with the First Ones above Sigma 957. The ancient being in question almost killed someone by shorting out the power systems of their spacecraft directly from proximity, and it is explicit in the episode that they are probably not even aware of it.

If anyone has any suggestions as to a word to use, I would much appreciate it.

  • 5
    I'm finding it problematic to pair malevolence with being unaware of it. If something is malevolent without being consciously aware, it follows that malevolence is not predicated on this particular instance but, rather, on a more general trait. Unless I misunderstood what you mean, you can't be malevolent by accident; you can cause harm by accident, but being malevolent without being aware of it is a problem.
    – user157304
    Sep 8, 2018 at 7:15
  • I don't know what other word to use, other than dangerous, and that implies that the object in question is inanimate and has no goals of its own.
    – moran
    Sep 8, 2018 at 7:17
  • 3
    What I'm trying to explain is that the two aspects are essentially mutually exclusive, if you want to link them together. When you're walking barefoot on the beach and you step on an ant, you're doing it being unaware that it's there. Hence, it's not malevolence. You could still be a bastard, but it's unrelated to the presence of the ant. If, conversely, you saw the ant and still stepped on it then it's malevolence but you're aware of the ant being there, as you're aware that you're harming it.
    – user157304
    Sep 8, 2018 at 8:37
  • Hi moran, and welcome to Writers. Requests for single words or phrases are off-topic here but may be acceptable on English SE if correctly phrased. The mods may migrate your question there.
    – Lauren Ipsum
    Sep 8, 2018 at 12:32

3 Answers 3


I agree with Digital Dracula's comments (which would probably make a fine answer) that if something is unaware, it's unlikely to be malevolent. For malevolence I would expect intent, and a sense of significance of the victim in the perpetrator's mind.

From the examples you've given, I would probably go with a word like impassive, emotionless, or indifferent. If I wanted more sympathy with the victim I'd use callous, careless or cold. For more of the victim's perspective you could try heartless, soulless, or uncaring - though there's an element of projection there : it's possible that the idea of caring about the individuals affected never occurred to the perpetrator (DD's ant analogy is a good one). The entity can have goals of its own, but it might not have considered the goals of the people affected by its actions any more than we would wonder about the ambitions of the steak on our plate.

From a couple of Adamses (Douglas and Richard) :

It was impersonal, not as a randomly flung fist in a crowd is impersonal, but like a computer-issued parking summons is impersonal. And it was deadly — again, not like a bullet or a knife is deadly, but like a brick wall across a motorway is deadly. (Douglas Adams : Life, the Universe, and Everything)


Blackberry: Men have always hated us.

Holly: No. They just destroyed the warren because we were in their way.

(Richard Adams : Watership Down)

  • 1
    I have a sense that the semantic difficulty we're seeing here arises from the use of the word goal. Consider: can flowing downhill be properly described as a "goal" of water? The water itself has no sentience or mindful intention; indeed it is an inert substance acted upon by outside forces (e.g. gravity). It seems to me that we customarily use the word goal to describe a conscious, mindful intention—though I suppose "the water's goal" could be acceptable, if in a metaphorical sense. The OP's use of goal in reference to his "parasite" is causing confusion about its sentience.
    – jdmc
    Jun 13, 2022 at 13:50

malevolent, from the Latin male "ill" and volens "wishing" – literally "wishing ill" –, describes behavior "arising from intense often vicious ill will, spite, or hatred".

In philosophy and psychology, the will is commonly distinguished from drives, desires, needs, affect, motivation, and other often unconscious impulses and involves a conscious rational decision. You have to be aware of what you want to "make up your mind" and decide on what you will do.

So, as I see it, you have basically two options:

  1. Your entity is malevolent. This implies that it possesses consciousness and is aware. In that case the term you are looking for might be


  2. Your entity is unaware. This implies that its actions aren't malevolent and damage to third parties is nothing but an accident. In that case the term you are looking for might be



    force of nature

    depending on whether it is alive or not.


Is it malevolent in general, but just unaware of humans? In that case, perhaps simply 'beyond us' is the best word from a human perspective. From there, the main aspect we can even comprehend is that it's indifferent to our fate, regardless of what overarching malevolence it might have.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.