What do you call a student who always sucks up to the teachers / professors in order to gain better marks or an employee who get a promotion by complementing a higher manager or boss etc. in the polite and impolite way?

  • You could call them a creep if you wished to be impolite. How do so tactfully is not within the scope of ELL.You could try asking on Workplace.
    – Mick
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 15:59
  • 1
    Sycophant A person who acts obsequiously towards someone important in order to gain advantage. Synonyms: toady, creep, crawler, fawner, flatterer, flunkey, truckler, groveller, doormat, lickspittle, kowtower, obsequious person, minion, hanger-on, leech, puppet, spaniel, Uriah Heep,... Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 16:10
  • Someone who always goes along with a boss and praises their decisions and conclusions can be called a "yes man". For some reason there does not seem to be a common equivalent gender-neutral term. Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 19:40
  • @FumbleFingers for me the closest adjective to "sycophant" in this sense would be "flatterer". Do you confirm it?
    – A-friend
    Commented Oct 1, 2016 at 8:28
  • No, I don't. I can just about imagine a woman saying You're a flatterer! to some creepy guy who's trying to get into her pants by overdoing the compliments, but I can't see a bunch of guys standing round the office water cooler saying John's a flatterer! when talking about the office brownnose / creep. Bear in mind that however you refer to such a person, it will be a negative label, which means you're probably okay to use "slang" terms. If you're in a formal context you probably shouldn't even be talking about such matters, so you don't really need a "formal" term. Commented Oct 1, 2016 at 14:27

1 Answer 1


You could call the person a suck-up, or a brownnoser. These two are insults.

  • suck-up
    a person who tries to get the approval of someone in authority by saying and doing helpful and friendly things that are not sincere
  • brownnose
    : to try to get the approval of (an important or powerful person) by praise, flattery, etc.
  • Dang! Neither of your two suggestions are in the list I posted in my comment! All this really goes to show is there are a lot of different terms in this general area. Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 16:12
  • Thank you, Max. Just please let me know if "to suck up" can be used in polite cases in AE or I have to look for another alternative?
    – A-friend
    Commented Oct 1, 2016 at 8:30
  • No, it's not polite. But it's not a polite concept to begin with. What I mean is that using a formal or informal word for this doesn't matter. I believe it will always be rude or impolite since it's an insult. Such behaviors are frowned upon, at least in American culture.
    – Em.
    Commented Oct 1, 2016 at 22:34

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