I wanted to describe someone as a player in the positive sense but the word seems to have too many negative connotations to use without explanation. The word or phrase I'm looking for describes someone as "in the game", an active participant, making a difference, and meriting respect.

Edit: Though this question has been closed as not likely having a factual answer, I am still hopeful someone will know one. As pointed out I could have done a much better job of explaining the concept I was going for. In particular, the word describes one who is an active participant in all parts of life (or at least whatever part is in context), enjoys participating, is successful and is focused on the playing rather than the winning. I was hoping for a word that stands along without context. I'm told "player" alone suggests one who manipulates others.

  • Vote reopen (verbally, since my rep is low)
    – RomanSt
    Commented Jul 15, 2012 at 8:27
  • @romkyns you can plead with the moderators via the flag link with any rep.
    – user10126
    Commented Jul 15, 2012 at 20:09
  • 1
    @xan I get where you are going. There's an expression I used to use when I was in the Army and someone asked me during some downtime if I played spades. "I don't play spades, I'm a spades player." I want to say there's a good word but am having a tip of the tongue moment trying to come up with it.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jul 16, 2012 at 18:48

11 Answers 11


Player only has negative connotations in the context of romantic human relationships. If the context of your piece establishes that a game or sport is being discussed, player would not ordinarily carry a negative connotation.

  • Thanks. I am looking for something that applies to life in general. That is, a player in the game of life, as opposed to a spectator.
    – xan
    Commented Jul 15, 2012 at 0:27
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    player in the drug underworld isn't so positive either.
    – user10126
    Commented Jul 15, 2012 at 7:42
  • 1
    @xan - why didn't you put that in your question? It totally changes what you're looking for. Commented Jul 16, 2012 at 9:54
  • @MattЭллен, Thanks -- I've tried to clarify the question.
    – xan
    Commented Jul 16, 2012 at 15:21

How about:


I'm having trouble coming up with a noun that describes such a person, but it sounds like you might be describing someone who:

  • has zest for life
  • lives life to the fullest
  • is not a benchwarmer
  • doesn't sit on the sidelines
  • is a real go-getter
  • is a mover and shaker
  • seizes the day
  • is on a mission
  • lives with gusto
  • has pluck and verve
  • is high-spirited & dauntless

Maybe some of those could help.

  • These are all excellent expressions along the lines that I was thinking.
    – JAM
    Commented Jul 15, 2012 at 3:33
  • You definitely captured the essence I was looking for.
    – xan
    Commented Jul 15, 2012 at 3:50
  • there are plenty of negative connotations to most if not all of these suggestions, because of over use and clique especially in the business world ( depending on decade ) where these are politically correct code phrases/euphemisms for much more obscene intentions! is a real go-getter, usually means is a real ball buster.
    – user10126
    Commented Jul 15, 2012 at 7:40
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    @Jarrod: I see. BTW, that links to a humorous piece, variants of which have floated around for a decade or so. Despite what that opus says, those are NOT equivalent phrases or synonymous: go-getter is certainly NOT associated with the term you used – not in everyday usage, and not any more than "I see" means "**** me." While it's true that some of these might be seen as overused or trite, any resemblance to political correctness is pure coincidence; that part of your comment is off-base.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jul 15, 2012 at 20:02
  • @J.R. all those PC terms you listed just set off waves aversion with everyone I know in the business, other than maybe marketing, sales and management, because they coined most of those phrases. do more with less, thousand points of light, BS, etc. And some of the better people don't like them either but use them anyway because that is the only way to communicate with buzz word people.
    – user10126
    Commented Jul 15, 2012 at 20:13

In the context of a competitive sport a player could be a sportsperson, athlete, competitor or a team player.


"Active participant" is the closest thing I can think of.


This is informal, but "baller" comes to mind.

Etymology: Middle English 'bal', from Old Norse 'bollr' and akin to Old High German 'balla'; combined with the commin suffix 'er' denoting one that does or performs (a specified action)

Therefore, a baller is, literally, 'one who balls'

Other connotations of the word include:

Baller (N) 1. One who exhibits a consistent proficency at-, or exuberant love for the game of basketball. 2. One whose person has been fully and successfully established in numerous social circles (esp. one who is extremely popular with both the male and female members of any given social group) 3. One whose status in society has been earned by one's possession of "game" (that is, proficiency at the game of life)

  • The question is, do you want to explain that every time you use the word?
    – KnightOfNi
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 21:48

How about just plain and simple expression, "team member".


He is full of pep, what means full of energy, initiative and liveness.

Example: Can you trust anyone that's full of pep, happiness and smiles at 5am because it's just unnatural?


"Gamer" can be used in the sense of someone who is actively engaging in the game or activity in question (in a sense that, I believe, is exactly how you are intending to use 'player').

The first listed definition on Merriam Webster seems to support this:

a player who is game; especially : an athlete who relishes competition


What about "amateur" in the sense of enthusiast, rather than its modern meaning as "not professional". Or perhaps just an "enthusiast at life", not quite the quintessence of a renaissance man, nor the focus of a professional.


If someone has Gravitas they are very serious in their endeavors and command great respect in their vocation.

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