Is there a single word that sums up "taking one for the team"?

In this instance specifically doing work alone that would normally be done by a small group, so that others can rest.

  • Loyalty
  • Dedication
  • Integrity
  • Sacrifice

all seem to (me to) be sub-par.

  • I have heard the term. Just cannot remember what it is. It is driving me crazy.
    – user27248
    Oct 10, 2012 at 19:36
  • @Jenna Glad to know I was not alone in my suffering...
    – user14070
    Oct 10, 2012 at 22:05

3 Answers 3


There are a few that would qualify: selflessness, self-denial, self-sacrifice, self-abnegation, etc. They all mean something like this [from NOAD]:

concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than with one's own; unselfish: an act of selfless devotion.

  • I feel that this does address my question as phrased. If there are no answers that better fit the connotation I was thinking of, I'll accept it tomorrow.
    – user14070
    Jan 10, 2012 at 3:47
  1. take one for the team
    The act of someone willingly making a sacrifice for the benefit of others.

Example: There wasn't enough room in the car, so Jerry decided to take one for the team and stayed behind while the rest of us went to the big concert.

wingman, team player, sacrificial lamb, good sport, buddy

self-abnegation n

the denial of one's own interests in favour of the interests of others self-abnegating adj

self-renunciation n

the renunciation of one's own rights, claims, interest, etc., esp in favour of those of others self-renunciatory adj

  • I haven't seen @Robusto 初夢 's self-abnegation my mistake. It will be good if you write these words in cursive or something so they would be more noticeable . Have a good one mate. Jan 10, 2012 at 8:25
  • workhorse, "Anyone or thing that does a lot of work; who works consistently or regularly."
  • spearhead, "One who leads or initiates an activity" [Also see point or point-man, quarterback, matador, etc.]
  • martyr, "somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce... a belief or cause" ["The hero continues, despite knowing the risk, out of commitment to the cause" is listed as characteristic of martyrs]
  • lead dog, "one of the dogs at the front of the team, who set the pace"
  • mainspring, in sense "The most important reason for something", might refer to one who has been a main driver for a project
  • yeoman, as in yeoman effort, refers to one who has "performed or rendered in a loyal, valiant, useful, or workmanlike manner, especially in situations that involve a great deal of effort or labor"

Of course none of the above precisely mean "doing work alone that would normally be done by a small group, so that others can rest", but some suggest hard, faithful, or important work being done, and calling a worker a martyr suggests sacrifice on his or her part. Helot may suggest working like a slave in spite of personal risk, but to some extent suggests a cog, lackey, flunkey, slave, dogsbody.

  • I really liked yeoman, but self-abnegation also came close and it was first.
    – user14070
    Jan 11, 2012 at 0:38