A friend and I are trying to remember a word to describe someone who is overly proud of their education. An example usage would be:

Does that email make me appear too ___?

Where the ___ is the word I am looking for, in case that is not obvious. He thought the word was "erudite" but when that appears to just mean educated, it doesn't convey the sense of condescending pride we are looking for.

What is the word I we are looking for?

  • It also cannot be erudite, since that is an adjective. The construction above implies you absolutely need a noun! But I'll try to suggest some adjectives (those are easier to come by)! :) – Jimi Oke Jan 27 '11 at 22:37
  • @Josh It appears I misspoke when talking to you - I should have said "does this email make me appear too erudite?" I was falling into the bad habit of nouning an adjective. – tryaria Jan 27 '11 at 22:51
  • @tryaria ah ha, you did create an account here after all! Ok, I edited my question to reflect what you said and also indicate that it was actually your question which I stole from you :-) – Josh Jan 27 '11 at 22:55
  • Hmm. After reading some comments and answers to this question I'm struck at how silly and self-referential this question is. Don't use an obscure, erudite word in place of blank… ;-) – ghoppe Jan 27 '11 at 23:10
  • 2
    I am not sure the construction implies that a noun is absolutely needed. The verb appear can be followed by a noun or an adjective: this dress make me appear fat; this letter makes me appear English. too is an adverb that is used as submodifier: he wore suits that seemed a size too small for him; she drives too fast. I doubt too is ever followed by a noun; if that happens, it's not the most common case. (I can think of too English, for example.) – kiamlaluno Jan 28 '11 at 3:47

11 Answers 11


In your example, I would probably use the word smartass or a more milder smartypants.

I think condescending, a word you used later in your question, conveys perfectly well what you're trying to ask.

Does that email make me sound too condescending?

  • Yes, but I could swear that there's a better word for that. Erudite with a strongly negative cast... – tryaria Jan 27 '11 at 22:58
  • 3
    @tryaria Well, there's a problem with trying to find a more obscure word than condescending, which conveys nicely the concern that you may have a patronizing tone and are trying to sound overly educated… can you guess what that problem might be? ;-) – ghoppe Jan 27 '11 at 23:07
  • Fair enough. Really though, it's just bothering me that I could swear there was a word for that. I wasn't really thinking about adding it to my normal speech, for obvious reasons. – tryaria Jan 27 '11 at 23:11
  • see Mike Brown's comment on his own answer ;-) – Josh Jan 27 '11 at 23:15

I was going to say "pretentious".

Perhaps pompous would be a good fit here.

  • Both are good. I'd give the edge to pompous. – Mark Maxham Jan 29 '11 at 5:40

I sometimes say, "pardon me if this sounds a bit professorial..."

'Hifalutin' is the closest I can think of...pretentious?

  • I like pretentious. It has the self-importance aspect and condescension built in. – ghoppe Jan 27 '11 at 23:13
  • 3
    Upvote for "pretentious", although not always correlated with education. – rumtscho Jan 28 '11 at 0:02

Well I would personally use the word elitist for that role, assuming the "overly proud" emphasis is on showing up that the author has superior education.

Does that email make me sound too elitist?

Failing that I would use condescending as @ghoppe suggested.

  • I like elitist too, but I think condescending is the closest. Wish I could accept both answers... – tryaria Feb 1 '11 at 22:23
  • @tryaria: Quite alright, condescending is probably the correct choice. – Orbling Feb 1 '11 at 22:37

Some use pedantic with a negative flair, but that's not a noun. Were you to change your statement to say "Does that email make me appear too pedantic?" I think that will give you what you want.

  • 2
    Or one could use "smug" :-). – user4197 Jan 27 '11 at 22:49
  • 1
    Apparently pedant is the acceptable noun form for pedantic. – Michael Brown Jan 27 '11 at 22:50
  • 3
    One could argue that a bunch of people discussing rules of English might seem pedantic ;) – Michael Brown Jan 27 '11 at 22:52
  • @Mike-Brown Pedantic is more of a "hair splitting" aspect. I mean too elitist about being well educated/well spoken. – tryaria Jan 27 '11 at 23:00
  • 1
    This could fit, but to me a pedant is someone overly concerned with trivial errors at the expense of the big picture. When you're pedantic you're pointing out flaws that are largely irrelevant to the communication. I'm not sure that's the meaning he's trying to get across. But that's just me, perhaps there's more layers of meaning to the word and I'm being too… pedantic. – ghoppe Jan 27 '11 at 23:01

Intellectual snob is a good noun for it. Unfortunately the obvious adjectival version, intellectually snobbish, isn’t such a standard idiom, so doesn’t (to my ear) work quite as well.

If you’re in Britain or Australia, then poncy (adj.) or ponce (noun) will also do you well here. I don’t think those are used much though (or even widely-known?) in the states; not sure about other countries.

  • OED lists only two meanings for ponce n. derogatory slang (chiefly British): "1. A man who lives on money earned by another person (esp. a woman); a kept man. Also: a person (usually a man) who lives off a prostitute's earnings; a pimp. / 2. depreciative. An effeminate or affected man or boy; (also) a homosexual man." – Brian Donovan Jan 12 at 21:28

Does that e-mail make me appear too meritocratic?


Would uppity be the word you're looking for by chance?

There's also snobbish.

  • At least in parts of the US, uppity has to be used with some care: it’s got a strong history of racist usage. – PLL Jan 28 '11 at 4:12
  • 1
    @PLL ~ I was not aware of that, and I'm from the Deep South. Can you expound or provide a link? – jcolebrand Jan 28 '11 at 6:36
  • 1
    @drachenstern, @Martha: I grew up in the UK and didn’t know of any racist connotations until two US friends (one Texan, one Pennsylvanian) told me about this. Googling for "uppity racist" and similar things shows that this is a hotly debated question. Certainly some writers find it racist, eg here, at Daily Kos; others reckon this is an over-interpretation, eg several posters here. But certainly “uppity negro” and “uppity n****r” have both been stock phrases [cont’d] – PLL Jan 28 '11 at 16:08
  • 1
    @PLL ~ The usecase of “uppity n****r” being as offensive as it is, uppity is just being a modifier on the already present racism. By itself uppity isn't normally termed a bad word, anywhere that I've heard. However, likell words, it can be used in a derogatory fashion, and when applied to another individual in such a derogatory fashion, that may imply racism. I would go with "used in context it's appropriate and highly acceptable". – jcolebrand Jan 28 '11 at 16:26
  • 1
    @drachenstern: mostly agreed, but I think there’s a little more than that going on here. If a word gets used disproportionately often in eg a racist context, then it starts carrying those connotations in other contexts as well. An analogous case that’s more current and has progressed further: flaming had no overtones of sexuality until recently — the relevant senses in the OED include extravagant, colourful, flamboyant. But it has become strongly enough linked to the phrases “flaming homosexual”, “flaming queer” etc. that now flaming alone can mean gay (cf. Urban Dictionary). – PLL Jan 28 '11 at 16:39

I would call such a person a "diploma snob" ... but that's just me.


I like Al's Pretentious and Pompous offerings, but I'd also add Conceited as one on my own.


I'm not sure, but how about vainglorious (n. vainglory)?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.