I'm writing some software and in it there are actions being executed by the users using the program.  Those actions might be something like

  • Sending an email to another person
  • Changing a certain document
  • Writing a comment on something
  • etc.

An action is always kicked off by a single user. Naively I chose executioneer until I realized that this word doesn't exist and the closest existing word is something like hangman ;)

As an example:

The _________ of the Action "Send Email To User" was awarded 12 gold nuggets in cash.

Can you help me find the right word? Single words only please.

  • 4
    Can you include a sentence which would use the word? I believe that's required for single word requests.
    – Kat
    Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 18:27
  • 1
    Yes, example sentences are required, and naming programming variables/classes/etc is actually off-topic here. Commented Oct 21, 2021 at 6:03
  • 2
    You will quickly come to realise that your software will involve non human triggers, such as Time, Daemons, and Devices. The term you are looking for is more abstract and it is Actor.
    – Frank
    Commented Oct 21, 2021 at 9:55
  • 1
    Added a sample. Thanks for the feedback!
    – Mats
    Commented Oct 21, 2021 at 15:39
  • 1
    (Cont’d) …  (2) The sample sentence is expected to illustrate / illuminate the meaning of the word.   Yours just takes the body of the question and contorts it into a declarative sentence, without adding any understanding. Commented Oct 21, 2021 at 16:10

10 Answers 10


Two words that might fit:

  1. initiator:

    A person or thing that initiates someone or something.

    (source: Lexico)

  2. starter

    A person or thing that starts in a specified way.

    (source: Lexico)

  • 4
    Initiator is my personal favorite. Thank you.
    – Mats
    Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 6:56
  • 3
    starter makes me think of a car, every time
    – TCooper
    Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 22:00
  • 3
    @TCooper - makes me think of a horse race! I would have suggested initiator, too. Commented Oct 21, 2021 at 14:26

originator (n.)

someone or something that originates or gives rise to something m-w

A person who creates or initiates something. Lexico

The reply stimulated by the request chain is routed to the originator of the chain, along the same path, by successively peeling addresses off the stack. ACM Transaction on Software Engineering and Methodology

To help determine the authenticity of these messages always go back to the originator of the chain and ask about the story John Williams; The Cost of Deception

The supervisor, in turn, will be responsible for contacting the originator of the comments to amend the ... Brenda Potter; Medical Office Administration


You are using this in a technical context, and besides the general user, there are two terms of art that may apply:

  • actor, if the focus is on the person physically taking action:

    A Technical Actor represents the types of interactions with the system. An actor may assume one or more roles, and can be equated to the external people or systems that interact with the system under study. Note that Actors are not individuals nor are they necessarily equivalent to job titles; instead, they describe the behavior in the enterprise and the responsibilities of the associated "user". —Unified Architecture Method

  • principal, if the focus is on the authority for the action (which in some cases is not the same as the actor):

    Security principals are any entity that can be authenticated by the operating system, such as a user account, a computer account, or a thread or process that runs in the security context of a user or computer account —Microsoft

See also this discussion on SO.

  • 4
    This is the most correct answer. Actor is a formal UML term too, as well as being commonly accepted parlance in software engineering.
    – Frank
    Commented Oct 21, 2021 at 9:52
  • "The actor of the Action XYZ" (if we insert this word into the OP's phrase) seems too tautological...
    – Ruslan
    Commented Oct 21, 2021 at 23:26
  • of course, if you were really talking about security, particularly cryptography, you’ll be talking about Alice and Bob :-)
    – Krazy Glew
    Commented Oct 22, 2021 at 3:47
  • @KrazyGlew We don't extend this to the public APIs, but our internal data objects literally name their properties alice, bob, and similar. Commented Oct 22, 2021 at 3:54

Perhaps instigator:

A person who brings about or initiates something. (Lexico)

  • 7
    Instigator generally carries the connotation that the thing being instigated was a bad thing (eg., a brawl) and/or that the instigator was being a troublemaker (eg., that they were looking to start a brawl).
    – minnmass
    Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 2:53
  • 2
    @minnmass I disagree (maybe it's US vs UK). Instigate often refers to govt or system started programs that carry no negative context.
    – mcalex
    Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 3:24
  • @mcalex Could be; native US speaker here. That second sample sentence, though - "The revolt in the north is believed to have been instigated by a high-ranking general." - is more natural to my ears than the first.
    – minnmass
    Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 3:27
  • @minnmass did you see the list of examples toward the end of the definition?
    – mcalex
    Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 3:47
  • 2
    @mcalex: Yes. Contrast merriam-webster.com/dictionary/instigate - "to goad or urge forward : PROVOKE" with an explanatory note, comparing with near-synonym "incite": "Instigate implies responsibility for initiating or encouraging someone else's action and usually suggests dubious or underhanded intent". All I'm saying is that, for at least some native US English speakers (like this one), "instigate" has connotations that OP probably doesn't want.
    – minnmass
    Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 4:53

There is also

1.1 A person who is among the first to research and develop a new area of knowledge or activity.


operator (n.): one who performs a work or labour; one who causes or produces an effect.


inceptor (n.): one who begins something.

(Those are the more literal meanings of those words; both have other, related meanings, as so often in English. Applications are left as an exercise for the reader.)


In my experience with software development, the person starting off the process is usually called the requester, because the process starts by them requesting it to happen.


Requester is defined as the person who asks for something or who makes a request.

(source: yourdictionary.com)

As a minor follow on from this, if data is passed it is often called a request and the results of the process are often called a response.


Executor (n.): a person who produces something or puts something into effect.
Source: Oxford Languages


The _________ of the Action "Send Email To User" was awarded 12 gold nuggets in cash.

There is no word that works here because the phrasing is fundamentally awkward. None of the suggestions here produce idiomatic English. As a frame challenge, consider instead :

[Username] was awarded [Award] for [Action].

For example :

Mats was awarded 12 gold nuggets for sending an email.

This phrasing is more natural, I think. If you don't have any other way to identify the actor you might consider simple anonymous phrasing :

A user was awarded 12 gold nuggets for sending an email.

  • Do you have some particular objection to the OP’s sample sentence, or are you opposed to passive voice in general?   How do you feel about ‘‘The author of The Night Watchman was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.’’? Commented Oct 22, 2021 at 15:44
  • @Scott The objection is just what I said - I don't believe English contains any words that make a natural sentence here in idiomatic English. Your example is fine, because it is idiomatic, but we can easily construct many others of the same form that are not. Consider "The saver of the Excel file should take care to use the correct format" - it's grammatical, but it's also awkward and bizarre. People simply don't speak or write this way and it's jarring to read.
    – J...
    Commented Oct 22, 2021 at 16:06

Agent, a person or thing that takes an active role or produces a specified effect.

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