I'm thinking of a verb, or maybe a saying, to be used in the following manner: He'd cheated, lied, and (question word) to get to the top.

Preferably, the word or phrase would have something to do with manipulation, because he intentionally created these relationships to exploit them for his personal benefit.

Admittedly, the sentence could be reworded as "He'd cheated, lied, created and then destroyed relationships to get to the top," but that feels a little clunky.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  • Is there a reason 'exploited [others]' is unacceptable? 'Manipulated' fits too, but you can check for synonyms you might prefer. 'Trampling on others' is a common metaphor. Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 14:24
  • Probably a duplicate: What are other ways of saying walk all over someone? Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 14:28
  • Now that you say it, i think "manipulated" could very well work here. When writing this question, I wanted to include the aspect of creating a relationship (in order to exploit it), but I don't think that's necessary.
    – lєαf
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 14:33
  • Brown nosed his way to the top? You’re not very clear on the nature of the manipulation...
    – Laurel
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 14:39
  • 1
    @lєαf I provided an answer, then deleted it. I had said that exploited was the word you wanted, but you've already used manipulated and exploited in the question itself. So, why have you rejected them? Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 14:52

3 Answers 3


In this context most English speakers would understand "use" as what you describe.

"Their relationship wasn't true, he used her to get promotions."

"He was just using her"

If the speaker was the "she" in question, she could say, "He used me."

While not strictly literal, it is common to say such a phrase and if I had to define "use" in this context I would describe it as "befriending someone into a relationship (any level of relationship, could be friendship, boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse) only for personal gain, not because of true feelings."

So, your description of

he intentionally created these relationships to exploit them for his personal benefit.

would perfectly align with "use." The sentence you provided could be reworded as: "He'd used [them] to get to the top."

  • Right, "He'd cheated, lied, and used people to get to the top." Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 17:04
  • @RichardKayser I would go as far as to say that saying "used" is enough to imply that the person cheated and lied. If the speaker wants to say in definitive terms that they cheated and lied though, I wouldn't consider it redundant to specify such.
    – Tyler N
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 12:35
  • Agree. Was simply following the OP’s example sentence. I. The other hand, he could have cheated and lied beyond using people, e.g., on tests, forms. Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 13:32


I have to add 30 more characters for this to be considered an answer.......

  • 1
    Hi Catherine, welcome to the site! Actually what you really need to add is a definition (plus its source) and an explanation of how it fits into the requested usage.... :-) Nepotism is a good noun for using a pre-existing familial relationship to place someone, but you can't really 'nepotise" your way to the top.
    – Hellion
    Commented Jun 13, 2021 at 23:56

The definitions of the terms favouritism, cronyism, and nepotism are brought together in this Wikipedia article.

Favouritism is the practice of promoting or appointing someone because they are part of an 'in' group rather than because of their inherent ability

Cronyism is similar but relates to promoting or appointing close personal friends of a person with influence rather than their membership of a wider group

Nepostism is, usually, the expression of a similar bias but for relatives rather than friends of the influential person.

None of these, of course, is practiced by the ambitious person, they would be practiced by people in senior positions on his behalf. But he could be said to have courted favouritism (or cronyism, or nepotism). In other words he could have suggested to the more powerful people with whom he had forged a close relationship that they practice favouritism, cronism or nepotism for his benefit.

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