I need a single word that describes someone who has become successful through their own efforts, especially when they started the success path alone and without anybody's support? Such people build their personality and their lives themselves; they experience many things and go through lots of ups and downs of life to reach where they want to be.

Here, the word "successful" represents success from the financial, educational, emotional, experiential etc. point of view and not only "financially"!

I know the two terms "self-made" and "self-taught", but Cambridge Dictionary says that this "self-made" mostly refers to someone who financially has made themselves, and the term "self-taught" is used to describe someone who has learned a particular skill him/herself.


I think that finding a single word that can mean all of the things you want it to will be difficult. However I think one word that has a broad enough meaning to be able to be applied to success for all of your points of view( "financially, educationally, emotionally, experiental") would be self-motivated.

However I'm not sure this word really carries the connotation of success, only of the character trait of enduring through the "ups and downs of life".

Another similar word is self-reliant (although this can have negative connotations as someone who rejects help from others).

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  • Thank you @Lifelong Learner, but I wonder what's wrong with "self made"? – A-friend Sep 29 '19 at 8:05
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    HI @A-friiend self-made in the right context could mean a range of things, but it's difficult to find any word that would immediately be seen as having the range of meanings you want. As you pointed out generally self-made will be seen as financial success. – Lifelong Learner Sep 29 '19 at 18:22

A noun for somebody who has taught themself is autodidact:

: a self-taught person
// was an autodidact who read voraciously
// Friends and colleagues described Dr. Tanton as a Renaissance man and a voracious autodidact.
— Nicholas Kulish, New York Times, "Dr. John Tanton, Quiet Catalyst in Anti-Immigration Drive, Dies at 85," 18 July 2019

The use of learn is often used figuratively, and can apply to so-called school of life just as much as it can to any academic institution. So, an autodidact in terms of life experience, would be somebody who has achieved knowledge and wisdom (and, by extension, success) on their own, without much help from other people.

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  • Hello Jason and thank you for the answer. Just what I am looking for should be indicative of someone who has "built" their own future/life. (Either financially, or emotionally etc.) I was wondering if you could let me know about a single word that indicates this message. – A-friend Sep 29 '19 at 16:30
  • @A-friend You can use the adjectival form too. He came about his success autodidactically. – Jason Bassford Sep 29 '19 at 16:42
  • Well Jason, could you possibly let me know what's wrong with "self-made" while it is literally identical to the term in my question. – A-friend Sep 29 '19 at 16:57
  • @A-friend There's nothing wrong with self-made. But you ruled it out in your question. You were asking for something different. – Jason Bassford Sep 29 '19 at 17:02
  • No no @Jason Bassford! Perhaps I couldn't get my point across. I apologize for the misunderstanding. What I mentioned was not indicative of that I was trying to rule it out! Instead, I was going to make sure if it convey only financial aspects or can imply more aspects too. :) – A-friend Sep 29 '19 at 17:14

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