Suppose someone wants to go on a difficult military/research mission and he needs three people to accompany him. He looks at a list of possible candidates and marks two of them as [possible/presumable/likely what?]. {one word or idiom would be best}

I was thinking of the word "candidate" that I already used but neither Cambridge Dictionary nor Merriam-Webster has the definition that I need for this word.

I was thinking of the words "partner" and "companion" but you are not sure if they are going to accompany you or they are your final choice.

The thing is you mark them as likely to go and likely to be finally chosen by you but the choice is yours and theirs together. A person who remains to be determined by you and also yet remains unasked.

I tried to look for "potential companion" and "potential partner" as one word or idiom but all I found was "catch" - {informal} a person who is considered to be very suitable for a relationship but that is only related to a relationship.

I'm looking for a word like "catch" (noun) but in regard to a military/research mission and it shouldn't refer to a relationship.

Thanks to SteveES and Peter I've managed to find more words "preferences" and "potentials". However, I am unsure whether I can use them in such context.

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    There are two factors here: the person's potential for the role and the nature of the role. Candidate works well to express the potential: the best word for the other factor depends only on the role. What is this difficult mission? Are you planning to commit a crime? Rescue a maiden from dragons? A duel? If you want to combine the potential and the role, you have to use an adjective and noun or a compound noun. Taking the duel, where the role would be second "He ... marks two possible seconds" (adjective) or "He ... marks two candidate seconds". (compound noun). – JavaLatte Apr 13 '17 at 8:59
  • The point is, you chose them as possible/potential seconds but you keep them in mind while considering others before you confirm your choice, but then there's their choice left. – SovereignSun Apr 13 '17 at 9:08
  • [...] but neither Cambridge Dictionary nor Merriam-Webster has the definition that I need for this word. -- From your links: a person or thing considered likely to receive or experience something, one likely or suited to undergo or be chosen for something specified. I think both dictionaries cover your use quite well. – Damkerng T. Apr 13 '17 at 9:29
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    You could use the word comrades to define their role. "From the list of candidates, he marked out two likely comrades" or something like that. – SteveES Apr 13 '17 at 9:33
  • I could use comrade or candidate but only with an adjective before them. I would like to avoid using an adjective. – SovereignSun Apr 13 '17 at 9:42

I think you maybe confusing two different things: 1) the relationship once it is secured: partner, companion; and 2) the probability of outcome: possible, potential, likely.

Your example of


is interesting since it shows one side of a two-sided attraction and makes me think that


might work for you

She is a possible choice, for office manager.
He is my choice for president.

might work for you, it indicates

  • Yes, by the way, I was thinking of the word choice. Since it's commonly used with people it might be the right word. But is there a way to change it to "likely choice" someone who is an "assumed option"? – SovereignSun Apr 13 '17 at 9:17
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    Someone who is a fit (as opposed to someone who is fit, do not confuse the two) has the implication they are a good choice and by extension a likely choice since the meaning is that they would fit into a position or relationship well. – Peter Apr 14 '17 at 7:23

I think you will struggle to find a single word which means "partner" or "companion" but also contains an implication of "potentially".

As a single word noun containing an implication of "potentially", your word "candidate" is great. It does not, of course, imply partner/companion/teammate though:

candidate: a person seeking or nominated for election to a position of authority or honour or selection for a job, promotion, etc


So I looked up "candidate" at thesaurus.com, and found "contender":

contender: a person, team, etc. having or regarded as having a good chance to win a contest or competition


Dictionaries necessarily can't cover all potential uses of a word; they're trying to fit lots of definitions in without using too much space. In my experience both "candidate" and "contender" mean someone who may potentially get a position, and I would count a companion on a mission as a "position". The main difference between "candidate" and "contender" is the likelihood of getting the position: if 10 people apply for a job they are all candidates, but if 2 of them are far better qualified than the others, they are the only contenders.

  • I've checked both those words and Ngram'ed them, they don't refer to what I'm looking for. – SovereignSun Apr 13 '17 at 9:18
  • There must be a concise term for that. I'm trying to look for it in Russian too. – SovereignSun Apr 13 '17 at 9:24
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    @SovereignSun - From your comment on your question: "The point is, you chose them as possible/potential seconds but you keep them in mind while considering others before you confirm your choice, but then there's their choice left.". So you started off with a list of say 10 or 20, you've narrowed it down to 2 possibles, but you still haven't made the final choice. I would definitely call those 2 "contenders": they have a good chance of winning the place, but they haven't won it yet. – AndyT Apr 13 '17 at 10:19
  • Those you choose are not winning a competition or contest. These people aren't competing and not contending. Basically, they are just choices. So far Peter's answer fits in well with my needs. – SovereignSun Apr 13 '17 at 10:41
  • @SovereignSun - This is what I was trying to cover with my final paragraph: the dictionary might define it as for "a contest or competition" but in real life its idiomatic usage is much wider. I can imagine usage such as: "I'm not sure yet who's going to be my best man, both Steve and Joe are contenders. Steve'd make a better speech at the wedding but Joe would organise a better stag do." There's not a real "competition" to be someone's best man; the person talking is just trying to choose between his options. [Or maybe he's trying to pick the right one ;) ] – AndyT Apr 13 '17 at 11:06

I can't think of any one word that encompasses the full nuanced meaning that you would like. If you want to make it clear what the role of the people chosen is, the fact that they are the preferred choices and that they have not yet fully signed up then you would have to use an adjective-noun combination, or put a description of this part elsewhere.

There are many options for both the adjectives and the nouns, here are a few:

  • Adjectives: likely, preferred, favoured, first-choice, possible, potential, etc
  • Nouns: comrades, recruits, candidates, companions, partners, colleagues, associates, etc

However, if you don't feel the need to define their role in the description, just that two candidates were chosen, you could use the word favourites (or favorites in AmE) to indicate that the two who were chosen are the preferred options. E.g.

Looking through the list he marked down his two favourites.

You could also use first choice to indicate something similar, but it would not be as good with two choices and would sound better as an adjective (e.g. "first-choice recruits"). Picks would also be a possibility, but it would probably sound better to say what you are picking (e.g. "he marked out his picks for the role").

  • "favorites" is a good option. I could use that. I'm now thinking whether this word or "choice" is better. – SovereignSun Apr 13 '17 at 12:08
  • @SovereignSun Can you think up how you would use each of them? – SteveES Apr 13 '17 at 12:17
  • In the same way that I would use "potential teammate" – SovereignSun Apr 14 '17 at 7:33

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