What's a better replacement for the word enemy? I'm not simply looking for a synonym, I'm looking for one that fits this context:

When you don't know how to use your firearm, you could essentially become the attacker.

My superior has been slightly vague, saying he'd like the word attacker changed to something else, as it doesn't "sound right." (His suggestion was, 'You become the danger', but in my opinion that's not much better.)

The synonyms I found for attacker didn't fit very well, so I'm trying to find another way to express this thought.

  • 1
    "...it doesn't sound--" what? What exactly are you asking about? "You could essentially become the attacker" doesn't have the same register as "you become the danger". What synonyms did you find that should be discounted?
    – Andrew Leach
    Oct 5, 2012 at 7:09
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    I'd suggest threat.
    – Jim
    Oct 5, 2012 at 7:12
  • That's great Jim, thank you. Yes Andrew, danger wasn't the best suggestion he could have given me. Oct 5, 2012 at 7:19
  • 1
    "Threat" is an excellent term given the context.
    – itsbruce
    Oct 6, 2012 at 9:30
  • I'd skip from a single word to: "become part of the problem". Feb 5, 2018 at 22:52

6 Answers 6


When you don't know how to use your firearm, you become a menace.

As used here, menace is a noun meaning:

A person or thing that is likely to cause harm; a threat or danger


I can see how your superior officer reached that conclusion. Not knowing your weapon can lead to accidents and "friendly-fire" losses. You do become a danger. I rather like enemy because in such incidents you are effectively the enemy. However, it's a bit of work to make the connection.

Perhaps it could be made explicit?

When you don't know how to use your firearm, the risk of friendly fire could turn you into the enemy.


In this case I think the word "Threat" might fit best, it indicates that one would be creating a danger while remaining unspecific on the level of intent and exact nature of the threat. It also focuses on what others would feel under the situation which seems apt here.


When you don't know how to use your firearm, you essentially _____.

I would additionally suggest:

  • become a liability (used in the sense that if you lose control, you become a liability)
  • put everybody at risk
  • endanger everybody around you
  • become your own/biggest enemy
  • are a hindrance
  • 1
    I don't necessarily like "hindrance", but I think "liability" is a decent suggestion. I'm surprised this got downvoted. Also, as a variant of one of your answers, one might also consider, "When you don't know how to use your firearm, you put everyone at risk – including yourself."
    – J.R.
    Oct 5, 2012 at 8:34

When you don't know how to use your firearm, you could essentially become the:

hazard (Wikipedia)
A hazard is a situation that poses a level of threat to life, health, property, or environment. Most hazards are dormant or potential, with only a theoretical risk of harm; however, once a hazard becomes "active", it can create an emergency situation.


I agree with you that You become the danger is a piss-poor, piss-rotten (distasteful or unpleasant), piss-weak (pathetic), or piss-awful (very unpleasant) substitution for You become the enemy.

I was thinking of foe, adversary, and antagonist, but I think I prefer enemy here. Threat is also a good suggestion. Miles above danger.

  • 1
    Actually, in the context provided, I think I'd opt for "You become the danger" before "You become the attacker." We're in agreement, though, that threat is superior to either of those.
    – J.R.
    Oct 5, 2012 at 8:31

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