If someone is being used to test a new product or idea, they can be called a "guinea pig" (because Guinea Pigs are usually used by medical labs for testing). What is another term that would carry the same meaning (other than "lab rat")?

I don't simply want other words for "guinea pig", like rodent or cavy. I'm hoping someone knows of a good term with the same interpretation but completely different and unrelated to "guinea pig". My main motivation is to avoid the cliche, since I find "guinea pig" and "lab rat" are used too often and the characters in my story use more sophisticated terms.

The leaders of the tribe within the fantasy world in which the story takes place, have devised a new system they want to secretly institute. They approach the first character, let's call John and try to convince him to start using a certain something (John doesn't know about the secret plan). Catching on to what is happening, his close friend Jim tries to talk him out of it by calling him a "guinea pig". [However I am looking for a different word than "guinea pig" if possible].

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    Can you explain why you want another word, besides test dummy, lab rat, or Guinea pig? (Knowing what you don't like about those words might prevent a guessing game whereby several other ill-suited candidates get proposed.)
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 17:42
  • @J.R. Good point. My main motivation is to avoid the cliche, since I find "guinea pig" and "lab rat" are used too often and the characters in my story use more sophisticated terms. Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 17:45
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    Good clarification, but I recommend editing your question with that information, as opposed to making readers go through this discussion to find it. That would be more useful, both in the present, and in the future.
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 17:48
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    If your story is set in a fantasy world why not get creative and create your own portmanteau (joining of two words or sounds) such as test and humanoid - testanoids? Or something similar? Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 19:35
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    @spiceyokooko: I really think you ought to consider suggesting testanoids as an answer. Given the O.P.'s comments (a good term with the same interpretation but completely different, for use within a fantasy world), I think it's a very good fit. Sometimes, fantasy worlds call for fantasy words :^)
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 20:06

6 Answers 6


If they are participating in a scientific research study, an individual would be called a participant and a group would be called a test group.

If the group is surveyed without an actual manipulation, it would be described as a focus group. The individuals would still be called participants.

Since you've edited your question, it seems you want John's friend to use a word that implies that John is just a pawn. Rather than something that is specifically about research participation, I'd recommend one of my favorites, patsy, which is insulting and implies that John is mindlessly and foolishly going along with whatever he is told to do.

If you want a phrase that is patently offensive, you could use meat puppet.


You can use test subject or just subject

subject : 6. a person who is subjected to experimental or other observational procedures; someone who is an object of investigation; "the subjects for this investigation were selected randomly"

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    The use of subject to describe human participants in research has been widely discouraged since the 1990s, since it tends to dehumanize the person involved as well as suggest that they are somehow subservient to the researchers. Participant is the currently used nomenclature.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 17:56
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    The world is becoming too PC methinks.
    – Jim
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 18:00
  • In many cases, the people involved are subservient to the researchers, and "test subject" is the more accurate term there. See Milgram.
    – user32047
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 19:59

If "lab rat","test bunny" or "weather balloon" have fallen into overuse ,I suggest "mineshaft canary" as an option worthy of consideration.

  • I like this one - one can easily see a tribe, if they have mining, having the same idea and using canaries like we do. Commented Sep 17, 2016 at 1:08

Assayer- Old formal word used for taste testers to check for poison in food.

  • That's a great addition. I'm surprised nobody thought of that one yet Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 7:38
  • I don't find that particular definition in the dictionary I checked assay and the etymology online dictionary has nothing about "food testers" as such.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 10:07

How about "sample A", "sample B", such as a non-human array of test objects would be used in a comparative study?


How about brain slut?

Someone who volunteers for research studies that mess with their brains (usually via psychoactive drugs) for some cash.

Danny signed up for 3 drug studies last week because he was broke, and went bat shit crazy…what a brain slut.


In the mid-1990s, when Bob Helms began publishing Guinea Pig Zero, his zine for research subjects, Helms and his fellow operatives used phrases such as “lab rat,” “guinea pig,” “brain slut,” and “medical meat puppet” in order to highlight their relative lack of power.

Hastings Center Report

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