Is there a single-word verb that means "to miss something dangerous and let something adverse happen unwittingly", with the emphasis on unwittingly?

In Russian, this exact meaning is conveyed by a series of (perfective) verbs: "provoronit'" (проворонить), "prozevat'" (прозевать), "proglyadet'" (проглядеть). All three take a direct object, usually denoting the exact cause of the adverse situation in question (less frequently, the situation itself).

All three, in most usage cases, convey the following meanings simultaneously:

  1. the direct object of the verb, the missed fact, spawned a situation that entails damage or adverse conditions, it's not mere discomfort or missed opportunity for improvement;
  2. the subject actually failed to notice anything wrong (because of being either inattentive or overworked): 2.1. the subject did not turn a blind eye to the situation, 2.2. neither did they contemplate taking steps to prevent it but decided against action;
  3. the damage was a genuine screw-up — all three verbs rule out any malafide inaction or other plans for benefitting from the adverse situation;
  4. there were reasonable, often easy, steps to prevent the situation altogether; but none were taken due to p.2.

To top it off, while "prozevat'" has an accusative connotation of undue inattentiveness, "proglyadet'" often bears an exonerative connotation since its primary, literal meaning is to "skim (a text)", usually because of an unreasonable amount of paperwork.

To my feelings, the broadly corresponding verbs "miss something", "pass up something", "overlook something", "waste something" and "blow something" don't fit exactly in the above semantics:

  • "to miss" often pairs with "opportunity" and other positively-marked objects, and the fact of missing often implies but doesn't guarantee damage or suffering in all use cases (not p.1);
  • "pass up" may mean "thinking about but deciding against, to one's own dislike" (not p.2.1);
  • "overlook" doesn't always rule out turning a blind eye, may mean "consciously ignore" (not p.2.2);
  • "waste" and "blow" don't rule out a slacking attitude or a shoddy execution, i.e. steps actually were taken, but were insufficient (not p.4 and thereby not p.2).

Is there a one-word for "things were unwittingly missed, things went sideways, nobody ever planned to profit from that"? If possible, is there a pair with an accusative connotation and an exonerative one?

  • BrE has the colloquial/vulgar "things went tits up". Jun 13, 2021 at 19:27
  • Wow, Russian seems to have amazing coverage with its vocabulary. In English, all I can think of is the wordy phrase: "let it slip by", or "it slipped by" for a less accusatory meaning. Both quite inadequate by Russian standards I guess.
    – Lorel C.
    Jun 13, 2021 at 19:33
  • 1
    @LorelC. The verbatim interpretation of "prozevat'" is "yawn through", or "to have yawned through" (if we pay respect to the perfective). It metaphorically refers to the fact that when a person yawns, they reduce their FoV due to partially closing their eyes — that's when the should-have-been-caught moment slips by (thanks for that one!). Would the calque make any sense for an English speaker, as in "They yawned through the rise of Covid cases and that's why the situation is so bad now"?
    – Cheetah
    Jun 13, 2021 at 19:53
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    Even though that's not a standard phrase for us, I like it, & I think its meaning would be quite clear especially in the context of a longer text. The metaphor of "they blinked" is common in English to explain how something important was missed. (Or they were "asleep at the switch", but that one is very accusatory.)
    – Lorel C.
    Jun 13, 2021 at 20:06
  • I'm thinking maybe something like they let it slip by them.
    – stangdon
    Jun 13, 2021 at 20:52

1 Answer 1


"to miss something dangerous and let something adverse happen unwittingly"

to summarise "To unintentionally make a dangerous mistake"

The nearest I can think of is

cock-up; noun [ C ] UK slang; something that is done wrong or badly: Ref C.E.D

It is not the same and actually covers a bigger range of mistakes and how they are made. The definition not being so restrictive as your post. However it does include the majority of the points listed so eloquently above. It can equally relate to trivial, minor, dangerous or huge mistakes.

  • Thank you. Can it be verbed and take an object, taking the above example, "they cocked up the rise of Covid cases and that's why the situation is so bad now"?
    – Cheetah
    Jun 20, 2021 at 9:46
  • They cocked up (big time) with Covid-19, that's why the situation is so bad now" Adding big time puts even more emphasis on the cock-up.
    – Brad
    Jun 21, 2021 at 7:50

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