It could be related to 'silk touch' or 'light step'.

In minecraft 'silk touch' means ability to take the block as is, being able to place it later in game, without changing the block, but usually many block types will change if you take them.

Im interested in any word or phrase that can describe behaivor of a person (or preferably a group) that chooses paths that can be returned from if decision would change later. And to do minimal unreversible change to the world in general.

For example, breaking a vase is hard to revert, so person would avoid breaking a vase. Not breaking a vase is easy to revert - person can break it later if needed. So preferred path is not to break a vase. Making noise on average is hard to revert, people may become aware of your actions, or may become annoyed. Being quiet is reversible in most cases, you can announce your activity later, or annoy people later. Lying or speaking the truth in court (speaking, making noise) is an example that blocks other option anyway, so both paths are about equal, and neither is preffered. Building from recyclable material is preferred, because it is easier to 'undo' the construction compared to building from non recyclable materials.

The opposite of 'burning bridges', and somewhat oposite of 'yolo'. It could be somewhere nearby the meaning of 'entropy'. There is likely some sort of idiom associated with it that i dont know.

edit, suggestions list

  • circumspect - building a large castle is likely aligned with this word, but not the one im looking for. Because it is hard to demolish the castle. Unless this person specifically thinks about castle demolition option, which isnt specified in the word
  • tentative - it assumes paths are somewhat equal and unknown. word im looking at assumes that one path is easily selected only from what is known right now, and with confidence
  • carefulness - this word is rarely associated with large decisions, it is more about cleaning, caring, talking, opinions. not about selecting the material for construction usually.
  • risk - it means person must be aware of the risk, smart enough to account for all outcomes. For example dropping a vase has no risk, it will almost certaintly break. Risk may involve vase owner being angry, but this is hard to predict and i think this word places too much meaning on known risk, rather than more general approach for unknown risk. reversability reduces unknown risk that is usually not being discussed
  • pussyfoot - "If you say that someone is pussyfooting around, you are criticizing them for behaving in a too cautious way because they are notsure what to do and are afraid to commit themselves", the word or phrase I mean would also include decisivness when the path that is reversible is visible. That is, a simple rule that a person follows, and when this very simple rule is satisfied, person can be very decisive, instead of just being always undecisive
  • toe-dipping approach - it almost always mean partial involvement, like only some part of the funds being invested to reduce the risk. What i mean would instead likely fall to no investment at all, or full investment. Toe-dip approach would invest 1% of funds in foreign company, just to test it. Word im expecting would invest none, since you cant effectively use courts in a different country. Or full investment if you actually can use courts in that country to guarantee a return if needed
  • pilot - "Done as an experiment or test before being introduced more widely", Again, small test experiment, rather than selecting the preferred path initially. Ideally a path needs to be selected with a simple rule of the cost of reversal, rather than analysis after the action. Im talking only about the analysis before the action, much simpler one.

If a word has 'reversibility' in its meaning, thats a big bonus. In particular if word counts the cost for the reverse action, and selects the action with the least of the reverse cost.

it seems the 'retrievable change' is very close to what I wanted, thanks to @Tuffy. You can add your answer so that I can select it. Or we can wait for other suggestions if you wish

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    The no-omelette approach. // Please add that you're not just asking for synonyms of 'cautious', 'circumspect', 'prudent', '[ultra]-careful', or we'll just get a list of these, easily found from a thesaurus. Stress the 'must include reversibility' requirement. 'What do you call a person who does not take risks (or who does not like taking risks)?' has been asked before. Commented Jan 21, 2021 at 11:40
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    There are several references in Google Books to adopting a toe-dipping approach, which to my mind specifically draws attention to the tentative nature of an action (that can be quickly reversed / retracted is it turns out not to be good). But there's a limit to how far you can take "reversibility" before it becomes obviously unsuitable for lack of commitment (and that would be a richer source of idioms, I'm sure). Commented Jan 21, 2021 at 12:41
  • Your question seems more a matter of philosophy rather than vocabulary or semantics. In the virtual world of computer games all available actions can be designed to be reversible (or irreversible. In the real world no act is so, as are failures to act (whatever they are). What matters is the consequences of pushing the vase, squeezing the trigger, declaiming the words to the angry mob. It is surely the consequences of out actions that matter and these can be 'retrievable' or 'irretrievable'. It is about that that we have to think before we act. And there are degrees of retrievability.
    – Tuffy
    Commented Jan 21, 2021 at 12:55
  • @Tuffy calculating the outcome is almost impossible. Im interested in a much simpler case, calculating the cost of a reverse action. Gluing a vase is cheaper than trying to rescue a person after a gunshot. That is it, no estimates of the future cost, just the reverse cost. I agree that this might be something to do with philosophy and computers, but im not sure how to ask that guys either, or how to make their answer understandable by other people Commented Jan 21, 2021 at 13:03
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    @SurprisedSeagull I get that. But even gluing the vase together again does not reverse the action (not looking where you were going, trying balance it on one finger or hurling it at the wall in fury). It may retrieve the consequences: (the vase now doesn't look too bad, or your partner starts talking to you again). But from what you say about cost, retrievablity is what you are talking about. So global warming (the consequences of pumping Co2 into the atmosphere is literally reversible in the sense that we can do things (we hope) that will stop the rise and even get a reduction. (continue
    – Tuffy
    Commented Jan 21, 2021 at 13:51

1 Answer 1


I think pussyfooting strongly carries the sense that a tentative step can swiftly be withdrawn, not just the softly-softly imagery.

Pussyfoot, which means a delicate, soft step comes from the imagery of a cat’s careful tread. To pussyfoot is to proceed with caution, subtlety, and delicacy and is used pejoratively. The term is American in origin and, in adjectival form, dates to at least 1893.


There is, sadly, a cautionary caveat: As Brian Donovan points out in a comment (though I'd missed this completely), the term, even though it originated in the States, might raise a few eyebrows in the US because of the non-cute–feline associations of 'pussy' there.

Tentative itself goes further than 'using great caution', with the nuances of a controlled, experimental, small-scale dry run. Not overly committed.

tentative [adjective]

of the nature of or made or done as a trial, experiment, or attempt; experimental:

  • a tentative report on her findings.

unsure; uncertain; not definite or positive; hesitant:

  • a tentative smile on his face.


tentative: unconfirmed, provisional, ..., test


Testing the waters (see FumbleFingers' comment above) and putting out feelers are metaphors in the same semantic area.

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    Pejorative usage of pussyfoot could raise a few eyebrows here in the USA for its apparent proximity to the misogynistic pejorative usage of pussy —just as we have to be careful with such words as denigrate and niggardly regardless of their etymology. Commented Jan 21, 2021 at 11:59
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    Remember, you must not use words on the bad list. The bad list is ever-expanding, and retroactive. That is why certain literary works and even certain literary authors are now verboten. What? You didn't know this? You are already guilty of thoughtcrime. Commented Jan 21, 2021 at 14:18

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