At my school I used to be in athletics class even though I didn’t sign up or paid to be there, I just simply started acting as if I was part of the team. How would you call a person like that?

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    In the running community, people are called bandits when they run the course but haven't registered for the race. However, I don't know of that word being used in classrooms and such.
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 22:39

16 Answers 16


An informal term for this is gate-crasher.

From Dictionary.com,


noun, Informal.

  1. a person who attends or enters a social function without an invitation, a theater without a ticket, etc.

There is also the verb gate-crash. As already noted, the shorted form crash is often used.

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    Frankly, I ain't never heard it for a theater. And believe me, I would have heard it since at one time was scalping theater tickets in NYC.
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 20:25
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    @Lambie Honestly, I can't recall hearing of gate-crashers at a performance in a theater (they're mentioned in the answer only because that's what my research dug up), but if there were gate-crashers they wouldn't have done business with you. If they had, they'd have been ticket-holders.
    – David K
    Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 20:31
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    I disagree with this being a good match for the OP’s situation, which is not described as negative in the way that gate-crasher typically indicates. Dry links to Dictionary.com leave out idiomatic value common in use.
    – Dúthomhas
    Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 22:42
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    The fact that all of these words have negative connotations probably says something about the culture of English speaking societies... at least in my own experience this behavior is not viewed very favorably since people could reasonably believe you're benefiting from something for which you didn't contribute like other participants. I would be surprised to see positive or even neutral words to describe this sort of thing, even if the original question doesn't describe the situation negatively.
    – John-M
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 10:07
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    The -crasher part of this noun is also semi-productive, so you have party crashers, wedding crashers, yard crashers, and even class-crashers.
    – 1006a
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 10:09

An interloper, perhaps?

interloper noun [ C ] disapproving

someone who becomes involved in an activity or a social group without being asked, or enters a place without permission:

  • Security did not prevent an interloper from getting onto the stage at the opening ceremony.

Cambridge Dictionary

  • 1
    I think this is certainly the most interesting answer, and the best single word for the question :D Other answers are also useful :)
    – Mike M
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 12:34
  • I came to provide this answer.
    – Mr.Mindor
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 17:15
  • I came to post this.
    – dotancohen
    Commented Dec 13, 2017 at 8:49
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    An interloper interferes in some way, though. They get into things or between people and have some (presumably negative) influence. Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 1:32
  • from OPs own example, the ideas is that they can interfere. I had two people interloping a seminar recently. They did interfere with the speaker's focus. Even if the interloper does not intend to and does not actively interfere, they still can have an effect, however subtle it may be.
    – skymningen
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 13:38

The related activity of taking advantage of what is free is sometimes called freeloading and the person who does it is called a freeloader.

From the Oxford English Dictionary:

freeloader, n.
colloq. (orig. U.S.).

Originally: a person who takes full advantage of the free food or drink available at a public occasion. Later more generally: a person who partakes of something offered free of charge without giving anything in return; a sponger, a scrounger.

That said, I would use the word a little more broadly to potentially include your use case as well, as one of the OED's own examples shows it being used:

1979    D. Adams Hitch Hiker's Guide to Galaxy vi. 48    I didn't become captain of a Vogon constructor ship simply so I could turn it into a taxi service for a load of degenerate freeloaders.

The context of this quote makes it clear that they are not simply "taking advantage of free food or drink available", but that they have trespassed by sneaking surreptitiously on board as stowaways (to allude to some of the other answers' more specific terms for this activity in the case of a ship).

First of all I see from our instruments that we have a couple of hitchhikers aboard. Hello wherever you are. I just want to make it totally clear that you are not at all welcome. I worked hard to get where I am today, and I didn’t become captain of a Vogon constructor ship simply so I could turn it into a taxi service for a load of degenerate freeloaders. I have sent out a search party, and as soon as they find you I will put you off the ship. If you’re very lucky I might read you some of my poetry first.
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Chapter 6

Edit: I also like (perhaps prefer) Acccumulation's "free rider", which is at least as appropriate in this context in that it suggests illegitimate entry.

  • 2
    Also: free rider, moocher Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 22:44
  • "Freeloader" refers to taking advantage, possibly unfairly, but not necessarily without invitation/authorization.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 21:58
  • @WGroleau: Not necessarily; but possibly. Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 23:12
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    This answer makes the most sense to me; I would understand this to mean what the OP wants more clearly than any of the other options given. Commented Dec 13, 2017 at 19:30

Another colloquial verb is to crash.

They crashed the wedding, pretending to be relatives of the groom.

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    Yes, but normally, you don't crash a course. It really is only in the contexts of parties.
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 20:06
  • 1
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 20:26
  • 1
    @Lambie Yes, it doesn't fit the meaning asked for, but no, crashing a course is a thing. It refers to attending a (full) course you aren't enrolled in with the intention of getting enrolled in the course. Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 0:11
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    So basically you can crash the crash course in crashing courses Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 14:19

There are a number of possible words that apply, some more picturesque than others.

To "impersonate" means to pretend to be someone you are not:

She impersonated a student in the class in order to get free instruction.

"Pose" also works:

She posed as a club member in order to eat at their free buffet.

"Fake" (or "pretend") is a common term for this:

To the casual observer, she was just another student on campus, but she was only faking/pretending in order to take classes without paying tuition.

"Sneak in" can be used to indicate illicit and furtive activity:

She would often pretend to be an usher in order to sneak into the concert hall and watch performances for free.

Other possibilities: infiltrate, disguise (oneself) as, insinuate into, worm into, put up a front, playact, feign, etc.

  • 5
    I think imposter might also work.
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 22:38

This only works in an academic/classroom context, but you could say you were "auditing" the class (in contrast to those on the class roster).

Of course, most schools actually have policies about auditing (permission of the instructor, etc.), so if you haven't actually obtained the proper permission, then "auditing" is just a euphemism for "sneaking into class".

EDIT: To expand on my "euphemism" comment above, clearly sneaking in without permission is not actual (legitimate) auditing, per the rules of whatever school or class we're talking about. If I were writing a descriptive essay, I probably wouldn't use this term, unless I was quoting the excuse the student gave when he or she was caught.

But the term might still be well understood as "attending class for no credit", especially with other cues. Here's an example:

I run into a friend who says they saw me with a group at the local university's tennis courts. They ask, "I thought you already graduated, are you back in school?"

I might respond, "Nah, I'm just (fingerquotes) auditing the class".

The "fingerquotes" (or just perhaps a certain vocal intonation) are a hint that I'm using the term euphemistically, and the most plausible interpretation of that in this context is that I'm unofficially (without approval) attending the class; i.e. just sneaking in.

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    Auditing is appropriate for one who attends a class under such situations, but it doens't incorporate the "sneaking" part of this. If you told me you were auditing a class, I'd assume your presence there was authorized, or at least not forbidden. If you want to emphasize the forbidden nature of your activities, you'd need another word. Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 0:17
  • I considered this as well (and kudos to you for typing it out), but indeed, I would interpret this as an allowed situation. Probably useful as a related term, but slightly different than the way the question is phrased.
    – Soron
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 7:00
  • This might only be applicable to certain dialects. If you told me (native British English speaker from the Home Counties) that you were auditing a class I would assume you were part of an inspectorate that ensures quality. Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 8:17
  • Might be good to note that many universities also have formal audit policies and the same word applies. In the case of a formal audit, you are on the roster and participate fully, but receive no credit and usually no final grade.
    – Mike M
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 12:33
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    As J.R. said, auditing isn't the right word. It doesn't mean "sneak into". Commented Dec 13, 2017 at 6:36

I believe the most popular term (verb) is "to sneak into". At least this is what I often hear when people get into some place, community, club, or anywhere else without being registered, not paying or being enrolled in there.

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    Please remove the part about academic audit. People who audit classes are officially listed as such in the registrar’s office. It’s not appropriate here; people who audit classes are supposed to be there, and they don’t simply “act as if they are part of the team."
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 11:18
  • @j.R. Excuse me, but I haven't found reference to that auditing people are officially listed or then registered. Could you point to it? Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 11:25
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    Read the last bullet here. Or look at this page. This one is good, too.
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 11:29
  • my university as well..... auditing allowed you to participate - including complete assignments and get marks from the teacher, and get it marked on your transcript as taken for audit (so you can't take it again for a grade). The word would also be appropriate if you did it informally, but applies both ways.
    – Mike M
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 12:30
  • I've certainly heard people say "audit" when they are on no official roster but have simply asked the instructor if they can be there. (My close friend in university was such a person.) But in any case, I really like the "sneak into" answer because it really is what the OP is looking for — and indeed used. The premise that the meaning needs to or can be represented naturally using words of another part of speech need not be granted, as we've all done in our other answers. Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 1:35

How about trespasser?

While the usual sense is in entering into private land, it also applies to any restricted spaces, such as a classroom or country club.

From Dictionary.com


1.b - a wrongful entry upon the lands of another
2 - an encroachment or intrusion


  1. to encroach on a person's privacy, time, etc.; infringe (usually followed by on or upon).

In slang, they could be a squatter or squatting. The formal definition refers to someone who is occupying property without permission (e.g. living in an abandoned building), but it can be understood in other contexts:

"Are you enrolled in this class?" "No, I am just squatting."


Andrew provided a good selection of verbs that could apply to the act being described, as well as "masquerade" suggested by Tyler, but since the question asks "How would you call a person like that?" I'm going to try suggesting some adjectives and nouns.

First up, Fake as an adjective would be useful. For example if a person named Janet attended a class that was supposed to be paid, but she didn't pay for it, then you could say

Janet is a fake Student

This also applies to other situations, such as being a Fake member of a country club. On the other hand while Fake could be applied directly to Janet (Janet is fake) or used as a noun (Janet is a fake), I would interpret those statements as referring to more general character concepts than specifically sneaking into exclusive events.

In terms of nouns, one that would often work would be Impostor. There is some connotation of pretending to be a specific person (It wasn't Janet at all, but an impostor!) but it's just as valid to apply to someone pretending to more generally be part of a certain group or the like (He wasn't a student at all, but an impostor!).

Describing the action rather than the person does seem to be easier though, and allows for more nuance in regards to how they were attempting to fit in and why they were doing so. Someone who attends an event uninvited with the intent to subtly cause trouble might infiltrate, while one who also wants to cause more overt trouble at an uninvited event might crash it. But, when asked to describe "a person who deceitfully participated in an event" as "fake" or an "impostor" if there is no other detail.

  • Janet is attending the class; she is not faking by not paying. If she pretended to be a student to get cheap traintickets, then she would be a fake student.
    – Lenne
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 8:47

A possibility in addition to those already listed, is 'stowaway'. Nautically it means someone who sneaks into a ship and makes the voyage without paying the fare. This does suggest passivity though, while you are actively participating, so it is not a perfect fit.

  • I think this term is somewhat similar, but specifically applies to someone riding a train, a boat, or similar without permission / ticket. Not to someone attending a party or other social functions.
    – Arthur
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 10:24

For the specific case of sneaking into additional movies, we used to call it theater hopping--where you pay for one film and watch as many as you can stomach.

In a way that's the same thing you are doing, paying for some classes at the school but then attending a few extra classes for free--but I doubt "class hopping" will ever catch on.


No one has yet suggested surreptitiously?

Which means to do something in a way that attempts to avoid notice or attention; secretively.

The student surreptitiously joined the team

  • One can be surreptitious while having permission to be there, e.g. a wallflower.
    – brichins
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 16:14
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    That's an adverb. Its not used to describe people, just some of their actions.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 17:13
  • @T.E.D. true but I did show how the word could be used. And I am not alone, there are many answers that do not suggest nouns.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 19:24
  • Legit, and I'm sorry for not telling them too. But you're someone who I can generally expect really good answers from. Sometimes having extra expected of you is a (very well disguised) complement.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 19:36

You can also be called an:


verb (used with object), in·trud·ed, in·trud·ing.

  1. to thrust or bring in without invitation, permission, or welcome.

  2. Geology.to thrust or force into.


  • This might work after the offending person was discovered.
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 11:17

You could say loitering? Here's the definition;

"stand or wait around without apparent purpose"

Another fitting word, which is also better, would be masquerading.

"be disguised or passed off as something else"

"You 'masqueraded' as a member of the athletic class."

This sentence works, because of whatever situation put you there, you still played along as one of the classmates.

  • 8
    The question clearly includes the purpose behind the deceit, though, so I don't think "loiter" is appropriate, but masquerade might work, "she masqueraded as a student in the class in order to get free instruction"
    – Andrew
    Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 16:16
  • The OP does have a purpose. Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 23:37
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    I would upvote masquerade were it not for the part about loitering at the beginning of this answer.
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 11:16

In the UK, we might call such a person a blagger, someone who has blagged their way into something.

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