We see heroes in fantasy movies, who fight against dragons and save princess (as always). While there exist those brave heroes, there also are people who exist to be saved by heroes. Is there any word in English to represent them in the sense that they are not as much dedicated to his or her values?


7 Answers 7


How about

the average guy
the ordinary guy

ordinary Joe
average Joe

(source: izquotes.com)

(source: izquotes.com)

Usually, Superheros save ordinary people

(source: disquscdn.com)

But for most of us

![here][3] [3]:https://i.pinimg.com/236x/f8/b1/55/f8b1557418ed84f1b60455f17f229bd4.jpg

  • 3
    Sometimes "Joe" is used in place of guy here: i.e., Ordinary Joe, average joe.
    – J.R.
    Oct 11, 2016 at 8:28
  • 2
    I have to be "that person" and point out that these options imply the person is male. I realize that 'hero' makes us think Superman and not Wonder Woman, but maybe we could point out some more options, like average Joe/plain Jane or ordinary citizen.
    – ColleenV
    Oct 11, 2016 at 16:06

What your details describe is not the antonym of hero; antonym means opposite.

The name for the person saved by the hero varies depending on the story. In comics like Superman, then "civilians" (the answer by another Peter answering this question) is fine. But there are other types of heroes.

You mention the sort of hero who fights dragons in an epic fantasy. Here the person rescued is often a "damsel in distress" (it's a somewhat sexist term, but these books are often somewhat sexist themselves). Other times, it could be "townspeople" or "villagers".

In the real world, heroes often save victims. This would be a good word in a range of cases, from heroes of the Holocaust who saved victims of the Nazis to firefighters who save victims of a fire and so on.

  • 5
    Antonyms are relative to relationships. One word can have multiple antonyms, depending on which sense of "opposite" is considered.
    – Rhymoid
    Oct 11, 2016 at 16:48
  • 4
    Stack Exchange answers do not have a fixed order; by default they’re sorted by score (and you’re the top answer currently, so no answer is above you), but other sortings are also possible. It is better to reference other answers by linking them (use the share button under the answer), and it’s also best to include enough of the referenced answer to be clear without actually referring to that answer (e.g. the word that Peter suggested that you’re disagreeing with).
    – KRyan
    Oct 11, 2016 at 17:01

You seem to be asking a couple of different questions here, so I'm honestly not sure which one you're looking for. I'll try to answer both.

While there exist those brave heroes, there also are people who exist to be saved by heroes.

I think the best word for those who need to be saved would be civilians. Other terms might be the helpless or the innocent

Is there any word in English to represent them in the sense that they are not as much dedicated to his or her values?

This is the part I'm struggling with. Just because a person needs to be saved doesn't mean they're not dedicated to their values; indeed, it can mean they're MORE dedicated. An engineer who stays at his post during a disaster to keep a power plant from melting down may well need to be saved by a hero, but we wouldn't say he wasn't dedicated to his values.

  • To stick with the Superman theme, this scene perfectly illustrates your second point.
    – 1006a
    Oct 11, 2016 at 14:35

The Anti-Hero is sometimes used for a normal person getting accidentally involved. Or someone not wanting to be the hero... but mostly for someone having a darker mind not qualifying as a hero in the common sense. "Wiki Article"


At least in rollplaying you would most likely say "commoner".

The terms common people, common man, commoners, or the masses denote a broad social division referring to ordinary people who are members of neither royalty nor nobility nor the priesthood. Since the 20th century, the term common people has been used in a more general sense to refer to typical members of society in contrast to highly privileged (in either wealth or influence).

  • Or, in that context, "NPC".
    – mattdm
    Oct 11, 2016 at 16:05

Damsel, short for damsel in distress, is the closest English has to a term for this. The word damsel is a synonym for maiden, that is, a young unmarried (and/or virginal) woman, but it is a rarely used word except for the phrase damsel in distress, and as a result the word damsel alone is used to refer to the trope of the young woman who is saved by the hero.

As noted by Peter Flom’s answer, this is rather sexist: it implies that the one being rescued is female, since the word damsel refers to a woman. Beyond that, the term also implies that she is young and beautiful and available. So the term not only implies that this woman is incapable of getting herself out of the situation and needs help, it also implies that she will be part of the reward for the hero. After all, the original damsels were princesses, and the reward for saving her was her hand in marriage—which meant both sex and wealth and power. The implications of the (relative) powerlessness of the woman here is sexist, but the implication of woman-as-reward is much more so, objectifying her to a massive degree.

This can lead to problems with the use of the term, particularly since the characters being rescued may very well not have any of that baggage.

On the other hand, modern stories have also largely moved beyond the straight damsel-in-distress trope: it’s sexist, but it’s also cliched. So now stories often try to twist the concept of the damsel, for examples by

  • making her competent and involved in her own rescue rather than just someone who passively waits to be saved—and being capable of standing up for herself, she is also able to make her own choices about any relationship she may have with the hero afterwards. This removes the reward aspect of any romantic or sexual relation that may take place, and it also leads to a more interesting and compelling “damsel” that sharply reduces the implicit sexism—making this the preferred route both by many authors and by many audiences.

  • by making her married, or otherwise unavailable, or simply disinterested and capable of standing up to the heroes. This eliminates the implicit sexual reward altogether. In some cases, a young but unavailable woman explicitly abuses the trope to secure help in a rescue, where the heroes expect or hope for a romantic and/or sexual reward, and she only reveals that this will not happen after she has been rescued. Note that sexism is still inherent in the idea, sometimes implied, that the woman needs the “excuse” of a husband/boyfriend/whatever to justify not sleeping with the hero.

  • by making ‘her’ not female at all, which leads to two different approaches to subverting the trope:

    • The hero might be interested in men (e.g. heterosexual female, homosexual male), and thus the male-damsel (who would be sexually compatible with the hero) may serve the same narrative role as implicit romantic/sexual reward, but with the sexes inverted or
    • The hero might not be interested in men, which removes the implication of romantic/sexual reward altogether.

But all of these (and many more) might still be referred to as the damsel of the story, because that person is still fulfilling that narrative role. For instance, the above TV Tropes link notes the damsel in distress is typically female, but it also can cover men. TV Tropes also has entries for “damsel out of distress,” “distressed dude,” and so on.

Thus, even when you lack the baggage of the original damsel in distress trope, damsel may still be the best word you are going to find, because it refers to the trope. Any other word just refers to non-heroic people, without reference to their need to be rescued.


If I understand the question, I think you will have to look at the act (verb) your hero has committed to become a hero, and then find the past participle of that act (or failing that, the past participle of the antonym of your 'hero' that has a verb form) for that particular act to be able to define the person that the hero saved.

Very much in line with what @fishyninja1 said.

So, for instance, your hero rescued someone. In that sense, the hero is the rescuer (which is the Active Participle of the verb rescue) and the person rescued (the past participle) is 'rescued'. The thing is, that past participles are derived from verbs (I think this applies to all languages, particularly Arabic from where I know this), and 'hero' is not a verb.

For such a scenario, where you are stuck with a noun, you could try the past participle of an antonym of the noun that is derived from a verb antonym's past participle. So, antonyms for rescue @ http://www.thesaurus.com/browse/rescued would imply that, to use more interesting language, your damsel in distress here could, along with being the 'rescued', also be the 'imprisoned' (past participle of imprison), the 'imperilled' (past participle of imperil), etc.

Unfortunately, for a noun as generic as hero, I don't think there is a 'one size fits all'.

Ultimately, you have someone who is being wronged and someone who will right that wrong.

I hope this helps.

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