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What's a word that means "not knowing everything"? This would serve as a complementary antonym of omniscient, which means having infinite knowledge, or simply "all-knowing".

Thesaurus.com shows these possible words:

  1. stupid (opposite of being clever, which ≠ being omniscient)
  2. unknowing (opposite of being knowing, which ≠ being omniscient)
  3. fallible (opposite of being infallible, which means "not able to make mistakes", which ≠ being omniscient, since I can know everything and still make mistakes)
  4. erring (which means "capable of making mistakes", which ≠ being omniscient, since I can know everything and still make mistakes)
  5. imperfect (opposite of being perfect, which is a superset of being omniscient... how could I be perfect if I'm both omniscient and fallible?)
  6. faulty (which means "to have fault(s) / defect(s)", is the opposite of "to have no fault(s) / defect(s)", which means being perfect, which ≠ being omniscient)
  7. ignorant (which means "having inadequate knowledge", is the opposite of "having adequate knowledge", which ≠ having infinite knowledge)
  8. uneducated (opposite of being educated, which ≠ being omniscient)
  9. unaware (opposite of being aware, which ≠ being omniscient)
  10. uninformed (opposite of being informed, which ≠ being omniscient)

Yet, none of them are true antonyms for omniscient. Is there an alternative?

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  • 2
    He's a know-nothing [f*ckwit]. Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 12:23
  • 1
    You might find this philosophy question useful. Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 13:28
  • 5
    This question serves as a great example for why an O.P. should adequately research a question, and then present that research. Three users left some pretty decent answers, each of which were refuted soundly by the O.P. After the O.P. made an edit, and added 10 words that would not work – explaining why – the conversation became more focused and productive. I've upvoted the question in its current form, but, had I seen it in its original form, I might have downvoted it (I can't say for sure, though, because I'm not omniscient).
    – J.R.
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 16:23
  • 1
    you'll have to coin one: how about "seminiscient"?
    – AShelly
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 16:48
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    If you are looking for the complement of omniscient and not the opposite can you update the question to indicate that? 'Not having all knowledge' is not the opposite of 'having all knowledge', 'having no knowledge' would be.
    – Mr.Mindor
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 23:49

10 Answers 10

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According to reference.com, the Random House dictionary registers unomniscient as a legitimate word. There are a handful of hits on Google Books which include the following examples:

  1. Chaucer deepens Jean de Meun's joke about the God's ersatz divinity: immediately after the God has just issued some clearly unomniscient judgments ...

  2. If at every world, God knows at that world only the propositions whose truth-values are modally constant, then it would seem that God is necessarily unomniscient.

  3. There are actually two types of unomniscient focus, since the narrator may know the same as or even less than the characters.

  4. The impossibility of an unomniscient intelligence demonstrating the supposed contradiction, and thus transforming our universe into an untrustworthy universe, with which one can have no intercourse, is the attitude primarily assumed towards ...

Also of interest is the term bounded rationality:

Bounded rationality is the idea that in decision-making, rationality of individuals is limited by the information they have, the cognitive limitations of their minds, and the finite amount of time they have to make a decision.

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Ignorant may suffice:

ODO on ignorant

adjective
1 lacking knowledge or awareness in general; uneducated or unsophisticated

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  • 3
    I'm not omniscient. This doesn't mean that I'm ignorant.
    – Pacerier
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 13:12
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    @Pacerier you just equated being not omniscient with being the opposite of omniscient. That's ignorant!
    – kojiro
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 21:54
  • @Pacerier: the opposite of hot is cold, but that doesn't mean that your coffee is cold when it's no longer hot, first it gets warm....
    – jmoreno
    Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 3:39
  • @kojiro, your thinking that I'm ignorant shows ur ignorance (lol). "omniscient" is a one-degree adjective and hence the complement of omniscient (not omniscient) is not distinct from the opposite of omniscient. More info can be found under Mr.Mindor's comment above at english.stackexchange.com/q/105321/8278#comment215109_105321
    – Pacerier
    Commented Feb 28, 2013 at 4:40
  • @jmoreno. Because there are varying degrees of hotness, the opposite of hot (cold) is not the same as the complement of hot (not hot). However omniscient is a one-degree adjective (you can't be more omniscient than someone who is omniscient). For one-degree adjectives, there only exists two possibilities (yes or no, no inbetween) and hence the opposite of a one-degree adjective is its complement. This is explained in english.stackexchange.com/q/105321/8278#comment215109_10
    – Pacerier
    Commented Feb 28, 2013 at 4:51
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The struggle seems to be with finding a word that means "some-knowing" that is negative enough to imply that all knowledge is the norm without implying that the object has inadequate knowledge on a simple level.

Bit of a cheat perhaps, but you consider some basic antonyms using prefixes, such as non-omniscient or, preferable for me I think, inomniscient.

Alternatively, quasi- means "appearing to be, but not", so depending on context perhaps quasi-omniscient.

3

"agnostic" and "grossly ignorant" in certain contexts can be used to mean the opposite of "omniscient"

"agnostic":

noun

  1. a person who denies or doubts the possibility of ultimate knowledge in some area of study.

adjective

  1. asserting the uncertainty of all claims to knowledge.
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  • "not all-knowing" ≠ "having some knowledge" as explained in english.stackexchange.com/questions/105321/…
    – Pacerier
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 15:13
  • It's a link to the comment under Dan's answer. Hmm, weird I'd thought the direct link would work... the link is not working?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 15:17
  • I got the gist, @Pacerier, I edited my answer. :-) Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 15:32
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The phrase "blank slate" or "tabula rasa" means being completely without knowledge, although it's usually used in discussions of how humans learn.

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It looks like your difficulty is in finding an opposite for the "all" part of it. If so, you might simply need a word like "knowledgeable" because it would indicate having knowledge, but by implication (and the omission of "all" in front of it) it would mean "not knowing everything."

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    If there are 3 knowledges, having "all" means having 3. not having "all" means having "either 0 or 1 or 2". Being knowledgeable means "not having zero knowledge" which means having "either 1 or 2 or 3" knowledge. "0 or 1 or 2" ≠ "1 or 2 or 3".
    – Pacerier
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 14:36
  • In other words, if someone knows nothing, I can describe him as "not omniscient" (e.g. "Hey John, you think you are omniscient? You are not omniscient. You know nothing."), but I can't describe him as "knowledgeable", and thus "not omniscient" ≠ "knowledgeable".
    – Pacerier
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 14:40
  • so you want a word which means "knowing some or none, but not all"? By the way, I would disagree with your premise that "not omniscient" allows knowing nothing. The "not" would negate the "all" not the "knowing." This would require knowing something.
    – rosends
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 15:37
  • Not true, because when we multiply something by nothing, we get nothing. In other words, if one is "not all knowing", one is "knowing any, but not all knowing". This can also be less-succinctly said as "either some-knowing or none-knowing, but not all-knowing", which in natural numbers (let's take all equals 3) mean "either 1 or 2 or 3 or 0, but not 3".
    – Pacerier
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 16:43
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You can use Clueless as an opposite. Also one may use blind (to), deaf, and more straight unknowing.

Here you can find many references saying that ignorant is the most appropriate word: link1, link2


My guess

Anyway since the omni- prefix belongs to Latin language I believe you should start your research from there: find what is the antonym for omni- maybe that helps.

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  • "clueless" means "having no clue", and even if we stretch abit and take clue to mean knowledge, "not having all knowledge" is not the same as "having no knowledge".
    – Pacerier
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 14:15
  • @Pacerier that's just my opinion. Anyway I would prefer using blind.
    – lexeme
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 14:24
  • since being omniscient could be considered as a special ability then opposite for this is disability
    – lexeme
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 14:29
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If you just want "not omniscient", and not "opposite of omniscient", how about "humanly knowledgeable"? You would probably need to expand on this, talking about human limitations versus God's lack of limitations.

Or maybe you would like "brainless", not as an insult, but as a literal term. An item without a brain is not capable of "knowing" anything, unless, for example, a rock can "know" that it is hard and dense, etc.

There is "neophyte", which I think is similar to complete or absolute "newbie". Although it is not the opposite of omniscient, it does indicate a great lack of knowledge.

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I would suggest one of the following alternatives depending on context:

  • amateur: a person who engages in a pursuit, especially a sport, on an unpaid basis
  • apprentice: a person who is learning a trade from a skilled employer, having agreed to work for a fixed period at low wages
  • beginner: a person just starting to learn a skill or take part in an activity
  • budding: (of a person) beginning and showing signs of promise in a particular sphere
  • journeyman: a worker or sports player who is reliable but not outstanding
  • learner: a person who is learning a subject or skill
  • student: [as a modifier] a person who takes an interest in a particular subject

(Definitions from http://oxforddictionaries.com/.)

While these are not adjectives, some of them can be turned into adjectives or used as modifiers in phrases. Examples:

He was a budding scientist.

She was an amateur fencer.

The journeyman players had already proven themselves on the field.

Maybe the question could get a more accurate answer if it specified the context in more detail?

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I suggest that ignorant is the opposite.

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