I don't speak English natively, but I wanted to know if there is a word that can describe someone you dislike/hate without it sounding so harsh like the word enemy or rival.

Not an insult, either. For example:

You call someone you love "partner".
Someone you like "friend".
Someone you know "acquaintance".
And someone you don't like____?

  • 1
    I don't think there is a single word: And someone you don't like is someone that you, etc avoid
    – Greybeard
    Dec 30, 2022 at 13:17
  • @Greybeard oh thank you! I was searching for like a one word, sadly it doesnt exist. I might try using "avoids" or a similar word. Thank you!!!
    – Gabriel
    Dec 30, 2022 at 13:24
  • 1
    Have you looked in a thesaurus? It's hard to judge what words you consider harsh; if you hate someone, any way of expressing it is going to be a bit harsh, but "rival" doesn't sound too harsh to me ("friendly rivalry" is a thing).
    – Stuart F
    Dec 30, 2022 at 14:25
  • Informal: frenemy — a person with whom one is friendly despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry. Dec 30, 2022 at 16:56
  • There's also words like "jerk", twit", "imbecile" to express your disdain for them.
    – Hellion
    Dec 30, 2022 at 17:16

3 Answers 3


The only English expression I can think of is a French loan word (actually a phrase), but it is given in standard British and US dictionaries:

Bête noire

Merriam Webster defines it as “a person or thing strongly detested or avoided” and, like my British Chambers, gives:


as an equivalent. However this was originally applied to things rather than people, and still is, in my opinion, less used with people than bête noire.

Although the former is not the sort of word used by the masses, and the latter feels a little dated, both contain the meaning of dislike, without the extreme of enemy.

  • I see on refreshing my browser after finishing this answer (supper called) that @ermanen posted an answer which included Bete noire, but appeared to dismiss it as a loan word. However I shall let my answer stand because although this is originally a loan word, it is now almost as English as Court Martial.
    – David
    Dec 30, 2022 at 21:54

Will "dislike" do?

to not like; to find someone or something unpleasant, difficult, etc.:
something that you do not like


If you don't like them: enemy.

If you just don't know them: stranger.

  • Or someone you know, but are indifferent to. In this sense, I suppose that there are symbiotic sorts of relationships as well, like a catalyst, which isn't directly involved in a chemical reaction. Dec 30, 2022 at 15:33
  • 2
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    – Community Bot
    Dec 30, 2022 at 15:56
  • This sounds somewhat like a translation from some other language where stranger has more extensive meanings than in English.
    – David
    Dec 30, 2022 at 22:02
  • "enemy" IS far stronger that disliking someone!
    – TrevorD
    Jan 3 at 19:15

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