I am looking for a word that describes a person described in the description of the title.

An example of such a person would be a person who comfortably passes the (easier) qualifiers and gradually performs even better as opponents get tougher in the final stages of a tournament.

The person does not necessarily relax when he knows he can easily win, but "naturally" performs better as the stakes get higher.

  • "Progressive" might cover the gradually performing better aspect, but does not necessarily mean they find the early stages easier - it does however suggest that they passed the earlier rounds in order to progress?
    – Sam
    Dec 11, 2018 at 16:15
  • @Sam but assuming the earlier stages are easier?
    – ab123
    Dec 11, 2018 at 16:18
  • 2
    @ab123 - also, "competitive" describes someone who gives a good game against any opponent. I went for progressive as it means "developing gradually or in stages" - it seemed to fit your requirements better if it had to be a single word!
    – Sam
    Dec 11, 2018 at 16:56
  • Possible/partial duplicate of english.stackexchange.com/questions/304332/… Dec 13, 2018 at 11:51
  • 1
    You might not be aware that there are strict rules for single-word-requests: "To ensure your question is not closed as off-topic, please be specific about the intended use of the word. You must include a sample sentence demonstrating how the word would be used." You can add this using the edit link. For further guidance, see How to Ask, and make sure you also take the EL&U Tour :-) Jan 6, 2019 at 1:00

7 Answers 7


How about "clutch (player)" per : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clutch_(sports)

Clutch performance in sports is the phenomenon of athletes under pressure, usually in the last minutes of a game, to summon strength, concentration and whatever else necessary to succeed, to perform well, and perhaps change the outcome of the game. It occurs in basketball, hockey, football, esports, and other sports. The opposite is "choking": failing to perform as needed, when under pressure.

  • This can also apply to competitive gaming Dec 12, 2018 at 18:46
  • 8
    You should note this usage is very much American sports slang, not generally-used English. (You can confirm that on Google Trends, it shows the phrase pretty much only exists in the US, as opposed to 'rise to the challenge/occasion'. The bottom line is there is no generally-accepted noun-phrase). Ditto, 'raise your game', and the opposite choke (sports) are also American sports slang.
    – smci
    Dec 13, 2018 at 0:31

The phrase that describes the act of matching skill/performance according to degree of hardness is "rise to the occasion."

I am not aware of a single word that is synonymous with this concept.

  • 3
    I like this over "clutch". "Clutch" applies, typically (AmEn here) near the end of some situation. If you're talking generally, I'd go with Rise... For example, "John is a great worker. For years, he's constantly being promoted to tougher positions. However, he's always able to rise to the occasion and get the job done." That fits better than saying "John is a clutch employee, always being promoted...".
    – BruceWayne
    Dec 12, 2018 at 19:47

I agree with others who have suggested that there may not be a word to describe such a person. But there are words that describe the attitude, or activity.

Let's start from the opposite end. How would you describe the opposite behavior? A person who did more than was necessary could be described as acting excessively. So we need to find antonyms for excessive.

A person who doesn't act excessively might be acting in a way that's moderate, or measured, or conservative, or efficient. These all seem like fine descriptions, each emphasizing a different quality, or reason for non-excessiveness.


We may use the word " COMMENSURATE WITH " and its noun form " COMMENSURATION " but naming the person who does so is rather difficult.

The adjective means corresponding in size, degree or proportion.

We may use a term from mathematics , EXPONENT where the process of using exponent is called raising to a power. However, the expression should be properly worded to hold the meaning.


So I think that "progressive" is the most apt adjective. They could be a progressor, but I do not think that is as accurate as the adjective. There are many words to describe a good sporting competitor, but in terms of your original question you cannot get much better than "progressive" as a single word.


A dark horse is a possible description:

Typically, a sports commentator would use this expression when a contender has exceeded expectations at any stage of a competition.

  • Dark horse is negative, like stalking horse. Dec 13, 2018 at 11:48

If the difficulty of the situation is due to competition with other people, then the person could be called competitive.

From https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/competitive:

eager to do better than others in an activity, esp. trying to win in a sports activity:

  • 1
    This is not an answer according to our standards here because it contains no reasoning or explanation in your own words. Please read this advice from SE’ss Community Management team and update this with your content. We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.
    – tchrist
    Jan 5, 2019 at 21:07
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    This isn't a bad start, but it's too short: the system has flagged it as "low-quality because of its length and content." An answer on EL&U is expected to be authoritative, detailed, and explain why it is correct. Can I suggest you edit your answer to provide more information - e.g., add a published definition of competitive (linked to the source) and why it's the most suitable word? For further guidance, see How to Answer and take the EL&U Tour :-) Jan 6, 2019 at 1:12
  • Added some more detail. Jan 6, 2019 at 10:52

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