- a well-intentioned but naive and often ineffectual social or political reformer.
Origin of do-gooder
Examples from the Web for do-gooder
When they thought about Lewis, what struck the players most was that he never acted like a do-gooder.A West Point MVP Who Never Played a Down
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.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.Sandra's $200 Million Year
December 2, 2009
- informal, usually derogatory a well-intentioned person, esp a naive or impractical one
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.