When discussing a person that has chosen to end a relationship, particularly a romantic or intimate one, I have chosen to use the word instigator. What is the complementary word that describes the person that is being broken up with?

I'm open to using a variation of instigator. In essence, I'm looking for a pair of words that are neater than the breakerupper and the breakupee.


Thanks for all suggestions and comments so far. Here is some additional context in reponse:

The terms should be neutral in their emotional content, as far as is possible. They need to cover a range of situations for every combination of breakerupper or breakupee having been right/wrong/aggressive/justified etc. For example, someone may instigate a break up because their partner is abusive so a term like jilted would be inappropriate. Similarly, terms which make assumptions about the reason for a break up should be avoided (e.g., cheater). Further, the words should be as formal as possible so although dumper and dumpee are common and valid, I'm hunting for something a little more high-brow sounding!


As suggested in the comments, I'm open to very short phrases which are a more than a single word but are still concise.

  • 11
    I get that you're looking for a neater term which is why I'll just comment without answering, but dumper and dumpee are the most common I've heard, I don't recall ever hearing another term used
    – chiliNUT
    Aug 22, 2022 at 20:08
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    "breakerupper" I love this term!
    – DKNguyen
    Aug 22, 2022 at 22:03
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    "Instigate" isn't really the right word here; it means "to goad or persuade someone else into doing something". Maybe you mean "initiate"/"initiator" instead? Aug 23, 2022 at 12:36
  • 2
    The context and restrictions should have been mentioned earlier, c'est la vie, better late than never.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 23, 2022 at 15:19
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    FWIW I don't think your choice of "instigator" meets your own requirements for the other side. It's not a neutral word but one loaded with the implication that there's something bad or troublesome about the break-up. Aug 24, 2022 at 12:44

7 Answers 7


I'd probably describe such a person as the dumpee, based on the common informal use of "to dump" to mean "to break up a relationship with" cf the definition below from wiktionary:

  1. (transitive, informal) To end a romantic relationship with.
  • Sarah dumped Nelson after finding out he was cheating on her.
  • 8
    I think "the dumped" is much better than "the dumpee". Aug 23, 2022 at 13:16
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    @PeterShor I do not. Adjectives (including participles) cannot generally be used substantively in English (typically requiring a dummy pronoun e.g. "the dumped one"), whereas -ee (and -er) are pretty productive at forming object (and agent) nouns
    – Tristan
    Aug 23, 2022 at 13:32
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    "Dumper" and "Dumpee" was my first instinct too, though it probably shouldn't be used in formal settings.
    – Showsni
    Aug 23, 2022 at 19:26
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    I don't think I'd consider dumping perjorative, although I can certainly see why others might. Unfortunately splittee doesn't work for me because the verb is "split up" not "split", and whilst a double construction is common with -er (e.g. "splitter upper") I've not seen similar with -ee (or an alternative construction for using it with phrasal verbs e.g. "up-splittee"). I do agree that use of -er/or > -ee (where a good word already exists) does come across buzzwordy though
    – Tristan
    Aug 24, 2022 at 12:43
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    @mcalex: Without context, I would never think of relationships when I heard "splitter" (and I'd never think of "splittee" as a word at all). Dumping someone has been given slight negative connotations (for dumb reasons; it's good to end a relationship that isn't working out rather than dragging it out), but it's accurate. And the concept of "splitting" has even worse negative connotations (because it usually refers to a parent "splitting on the family", which means abandoning those you support with little or no notice, not merely ending a relationship where there is no dependency yet). Aug 24, 2022 at 15:24

This is a question with many appropriate answers. Here are two more suggestions:

Use the nouns forsaken or forlorn

First, forsaken:

Cambridge forsake, verb
to leave someone for ever, especially when they need you

Hence, forsaken as a participle noun:

"She, the forsaken, was in tears after he left"

Second, regarding forlorn, we have:

forlorn, adjective
alone and unhappy; left alone and not cared for

Merriam Webster
forlorn, adjective
sad and lonely because of isolation or desertion

We may use the word as an adjectival noun:

"He, the forlorn, was deep in sorrow"

Of these two I prefer forsaken, because it places slightly more emphasis on the state of the person as a result of another's leaving. forlorn is more simply focused on the state of the person.

For an emotional use of forsake, see the lyrics from the film “High Noon”

Do not forsake me, oh my darlin',
on this our wedding day.
Do not forsake me, oh my darlin',
wait, wait along

{I only quote the opening verse; there is more)


Although these terms are not strictly referring to romantic breakups, surrounded by the right context, they will carry the meaning you are looking for:

The abandoner

a person or thing that abandons (Collins)

and the abandoned

having been deserted or left (OxfordL)

In Life After Divorce (2012), Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse writes:

The real difference between “the abandoner” and “the abandoned” is that emotionally the sense of their spouse's leaving them came at different times.

Here is another instance:

Some marriages even appear to be sustained by a process whereby the partners alternate between the roles of the abandoner and the abandoned.
(Stress And The Family: Coping With Catastrophe, Charles R. Figley, ‎Hamilton I. McCubbin, 2016)

I can understand the use of instigator as in the instigator of the breakup. Its pair term could be the victim, but breakups with only one victim are rather rare...

  • Thanks for the thhoughtful contribution but, again, abandon is quite a loaded word. Seems like I'm searching for a word that doesn't appear in English as of yet!
    – Bradford
    Aug 25, 2022 at 12:13
  • Not sure what you mean by loaded, but anyway. Don't get stuck on the idea that you can only express a meaning in one particular way. Language is a tool in your hands and you can turn it and bend it in such a way as to convey what you want.
    – fev
    Aug 25, 2022 at 12:18
  • Emotionally-charged is perhaps more accurate than loaded. Abandon, in the context of interpersonal relationships, to me evokes quite a dramatic image. A mother abandoning her child is different to a manager abandoning a project.
    – Bradford
    Aug 25, 2022 at 12:20
  • Yes, I understand what you mean. But do note that the subject of breakups is emotionally charged. On the other hand it is good to be picky with words. I am, too. I find we nowadays settle too easily for just any popular word, rather than carefully thinking of the term we need. I must be getting old I guess :)
    – fev
    Aug 25, 2022 at 12:23

The solution could lie with Gwyneth Paltrow's infamous "conscious uncoupling”

When Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow split back in 2014, they released a statement noting instead of just breaking up they were “conscious uncoupling.” It’s been a phrase that has followed Gwyneth Paltrow in particular ever since and she’s finally chosen to explain where the terminology came from. Apparently, it was a term a therapist had used to get them on the same page about exiting their marriage but still co-parenting their kids.

The uncoupler would be the partner who ends the relationship while the partner who is left alone (to mend their heart) could be termed the uncoupled

There is also a new TV show called, Uncoupled

The series stars Neil Patrick Harris as a newly single gay Manhattanite navigating the dating scene for the first time in 17 years after getting abruptly dumped by his long-term partner

  • Appreciate the neutrality of this one. I wonder if the variation decouple might also work. Although this makes me think of train carriages, rather than breakups.
    – Bradford
    Aug 25, 2022 at 12:15

How about the jilter and the jilted.

to reject or cast aside (a lover or sweetheart), esp. abruptly or unfeelingly

  • 2
    That works for dates and "jilted at the altar" scenarios, but less well for long-term relationships or marriages.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 22, 2022 at 12:16
  • Sounds a bit old-fashioned for my ears, but I can't think of a recent term that works better.
    – Michael W.
    Aug 23, 2022 at 21:28
  • Or even the jiltee Aug 15, 2023 at 22:05

As you want a more formal word than dumpee, there is leavee. It is used in the context of divorce also.

The person in a relationship who is left by the other. - Wiktionary

It even appears in a movie line by Woody Allen, in Everyone Says I Love You:

In a relationship, it is better to be the leaver than the leavee. - imdb.com



  1. a defendant in a lawsuit, especially one in an appeals or divorce case.

The use in a divorce case is the relevant one.

It's 'instigator' pair-word is Petitioner.

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