[doo-goo d-er, -goo d-]


a well-intentioned but naive and often ineffectual social or political reformer.

Origin of do-gooder

1925–30, Americanism; do good + -er1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for do-gooder

philanthropist, humanitarian, volunteer, altruist

Examples from the Web for do-gooder

Contemporary Examples of do-gooder

  • When they thought about Lewis, what struck the players most was that he never acted like a do-gooder.

    The Daily Beast logo
    A West Point MVP Who Never Played a Down

    Nicolaus Mills

    December 13, 2014

  • To hear her speak is to hear that passion combined with the heart of a do-gooder and the simplicity of a child.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Philanthropy’s Child Prodigy

    Daily Beast Promotions

    March 6, 2012

  • Kosove says the role of “some Southern Christian Bible-thumping do-gooder” read like a caricature to her.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Sandra's $200 Million Year

    Kim Masters

    December 2, 2009

British Dictionary definitions for do-gooder



informal, usually derogatory a well-intentioned person, esp a naive or impractical one
Derived Formsdo-goodery, noundo-gooding, noun, adjective
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for do-gooder

"a person who seeks to correct social ills in an idealistic, but usually impractical or superficial, way," 1650s (as do-good), in "Zootomia, or Observations on the Present Manners of the English: Briefly Anatomizing the Living by the Dead. With An Usefull Detection of the Mountebanks of Both Sexes," written by Richard Whitlock, a medical doctor. Probably used even then with a taint of impractical idealism. Modern pejorative use seems to have begun on the socialist left, mocking those who were unwilling to take a hard line. OED has this citation, from "The Nation" in 1923:

There is nothing the matter with the United States except ... the parlor socialists, up-lifters, and do-goods.

The form do-gooder appears in American English from 1927, presumably because do-good was no longer felt as sufficiently noun-like. A slightly older word for this was goo-goo.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper