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I am writing a speech about people having people in their lives who are catalysts for them to propel them to something positive in their lives. These people enable others to be something better than they had been before.

Unfortunately, I cannot use the word "enabler" to describe those persons with one word, because the word "enabler" is defined as someone who enables drug abuse in someone else.

Does anyone know of a better word for enabler?

And, what gave the word "enabler" such a negative connotation in first place, especially since the verb generally is positive?

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  • Too Localised. I doubt many native speakers share OP's perception that enabler has specifically negative connotations. Oct 3, 2012 at 16:38
  • IMO, catalysts is already a great choice. Oct 3, 2012 at 16:38
  • @FumbleFingers I was unacquainted with it as well. However, that cesspool of slang that is Urban Dictionary has a relatively well received entry. Oct 3, 2012 at 16:40
  • @coleopterist: Citing Urban Dictionary implies it's a "slang" usage, but I suspect it's actually more used in "legal" contexts. Oct 3, 2012 at 17:12
  • @FumbleFingers You're right. WP offers both positive and negative connotations for the term. Oct 3, 2012 at 17:18

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Mentor or Motivator would work as alternative terms. (I like catalyst too)

Enabler picked up its negative connotation from psychologists. In relation to behavioral psychology it refers to someone who assists a person with self-destructive behavior - not just drug use, but addictions or negative behavior patterns of any kind. (Making excuses, assisting in covering it up, obtaining materials, etc). It's not technically a specifically negative term but at least in the US it's almost never used outside of the context of enabling addictions or other negative life patterns.

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