Ask Difference

Victim vs. Survivor — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on September 24, 2023
A victim is someone who has suffered harm, loss, or injustice, often highlighting their vulnerability. A survivor is someone who has lived through adversity or danger but emphasizes resilience and overcoming challenges.
Victim vs. Survivor — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Victim and Survivor


Key Differences

A victim is generally described as a person who has been harmed, often physically, emotionally, or financially. This term focuses on the suffering and vulnerability experienced due to an event, person, or circumstance. A survivor, on the other hand, is someone who has lived through a difficult or dangerous situation, and the term tends to emphasize their resilience and ability to overcome adversity.
Both terms, victim and survivor, can apply to a wide range of experiences such as accidents, crimes, natural disasters, and illnesses. While "victim" centers the experience around the act of being harmed, "survivor" focuses more on the aftermath and the process of recovery or resilience. In many cases, a person can identify as both a victim and a survivor at different stages or in different contexts.
From a grammatical standpoint, both "victim" and "survivor" are nouns. While "victim" is generally used in a more passive sense to describe someone who has been acted upon, "survivor" is often used in a more active sense, focusing on the individual's agency and resilience. Both words can be modified by adjectives to be more specific, such as "crime victim" or "cancer survivor."
In legal contexts, the term "victim" is often used to identify the person who has suffered due to a crime or civil wrong. "Survivor" is more commonly used in personal narratives or therapeutic settings where the emphasis is on overcoming challenges and moving forward.
In public discourse, there's often debate over which term to use. "Victim" might be seen as disempowering, whereas "survivor" might be seen as more empowering. However, it's essential to respect individual preferences as some people may prefer to identify as a victim to validate their experience, and others may prefer "survivor" to focus on their resilience.

Comparison Chart


Harm, vulnerability
Resilience, overcoming


Legal, reporting
Therapeutic, personal narrative

Grammatical Role

Generally more passive
Generally more active


Crime victim, accident victim
Cancer survivor, abuse survivor

Emotional Connotation

May imply helplessness
May imply empowerment

Compare with Definitions


Individual hurt in an accident.
The car crash left one victim in critical condition.


A person who persists in spite of challenges.
As a cancer survivor, she advocates for early detection.


A person tricked or duped.
He was a victim of a phishing scam.


Someone who thrives despite adversity.
He's a survivor of a tough childhood.


Someone adversely affected by a circumstance or event.
He became a victim of his own success.


One who continues to function or prosper despite difficulties.
The company is a survivor of many economic downturns.


One who suffers harm or loss.
The victim of the robbery was shaken but unharmed.


One who remains alive after an ordeal.
She is a survivor of the plane crash.


One who is harmed or killed by another, especially by someone committing a criminal or unlawful act
A victim of a mugging.


Individual who outlasts others in a competition or conflict.
The last survivor of the contest won a prize.


A living creature slain and offered as a sacrifice during a religious rite.


To remain alive or in existence.


One who is harmed by or made to suffer under a circumstance or condition
Victims of war.
Victims of an epidemic.
Victims of poverty.


To carry on despite hardships or trauma; persevere
Families that were surviving in tents after the flood.


A person who is tricked, swindled, or taken advantage of
The victim of a cruel hoax.


To remain functional or usable
I dropped the radio, but it survived.


One that is harmed—killed, injured, subjected to oppression, deceived, or otherwise adversely affected—by someone or something, especially another person or event, force, or condition; in particular:
The youngest victims of the brutal war
Victim of a bad decision by a rushed and overworked judge


To live longer than; outlive
She survived her husband by five years.


One who is harmed or killed by a crime or scam.
Victims of assault; the murderer's victims
Became another victim of the latest scam


To live, persist, or remain usable through
Plants that can survive frosts.
A clock that survived a fall.


One who is harmed or killed by an accident or illness.
A fundraiser for victims of AIDS; a victim of a car crash


To cope with (a trauma or setback); persevere after
Survived child abuse.


One who is harmed or killed as a result of other people's biases, emotions or incompetence, or their own.
A victim of his own pride; a victim of her own incompetence
The newcomer never managed to make friends, a victim of the town's deep distrust of outsiders
A victim of sexism; victims of a racist system


One who survives, especially one who survives a traumatic experience.
From this moment on, I choose to live not as a victim, but as a survivor.


One who is harmed or killed as a result of a natural or man-made disaster or impersonal condition.
Relief efforts to help victims of the hurricane
Victim of an optical illusion; victim of a string of bad luck
Local businesses were the main victims of the economic downturn


(figuratively) A person who is able to endure hardship.


A living being which is slain and offered as a sacrifice, usually in a religious rite.


One who knew a specific decedent.
She was from a large family and had many friends, so the funeral was crowded with mourning survivors.


The transfigured body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist.


One who survives or outlives another person, or any time, event, or thing.
The survivor boundIn filial obligation for some termTo do obsequious sorrow.


A living being sacrificed to some deity, or in the performance of a religious rite; a creature immolated, or made an offering of.
Led like a victim, to my death I'll go.


The longer liver of two joint tenants, or two persons having a joint interest in anything.


A person or thing destroyed or sacrificed in the pursuit of an object, or in gratification of a passion; as, a victim to jealousy, lust, or ambition.


One who lives through affliction;
The survivors of the fire were taken to a hospital


A person or living creature destroyed by, or suffering grievous injury from, another, from fortune or from accident; as, the victim of a defaulter; the victim of a railroad accident.


One who outlives another;
He left his farm to his survivors


Hence, one who is duped, or cheated; a dupe; a gull.


An animal that survives in spite of adversity;
Only the fittest animals were survivors of the cold winters


An unfortunate person who suffers from some adverse circumstance


A person who is tricked or swindled


The recipient of unjust treatment.
She was a victim of workplace harassment.

Common Curiosities

What does Victim mean?

Victim refers to someone who has suffered harm, loss, or injustice.

Is Victim a passive term?

Generally, "victim" is used in a more passive sense, focusing on the act of being harmed.

What does Survivor mean?

Survivor refers to someone who has lived through adversity or danger, emphasizing resilience.

What are the grammatical roles of Victim and Survivor?

Both "victim" and "survivor" function as nouns and can be modified by adjectives.

Are Victim and Survivor gender-specific?

No, both terms are gender-neutral.

Is Survivor an empowering term?

"Survivor" often has an empowering connotation, emphasizing resilience and overcoming challenges.

How should I choose between using Victim and Survivor?

The choice between "victim" and "survivor" often depends on the context and the preference of the individual described.

Does Survivor imply that one has fully recovered?

No, being a "survivor" doesn't necessarily mean one has fully recovered; it emphasizes the process of overcoming.

Can one be both a Victim and Survivor?

Yes, one can identify as both a victim and a survivor depending on the context and stage of experience.

Can Victim be used in legal contexts?

Yes, "victim" is commonly used in legal settings to denote someone who has suffered due to a crime.

Can Victim refer to non-human entities?

Yes, "victim" can refer to animals, companies, or other non-human entities that suffer harm.

Is Survivor commonly used in therapy?

"Survivor" is frequently used in therapeutic settings to focus on resilience and recovery.

Does Victim always imply weakness?

No, although "victim" often focuses on harm or vulnerability, it doesn't inherently imply weakness.

Can Survivor refer to non-human entities?

Yes, "survivor" can refer to animals, businesses, or other entities that persist despite adverse conditions.

Are these terms culturally sensitive?

Cultural perceptions of "victim" and "survivor" may vary, so it's important to be respectful of individual and cultural preferences.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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