I'm trying to find a single adjective that would fit the best to the following person's trait:

One who thinks knows everything/best, and often doesn't listen to orders and instead completes some task his/her own way. This person, while intelligent, is right about 50% of the time, when doing things its own way.

So far I've thought of independent, idiosyncratic and stubborn, but these words don't imply the "knows everything/best" part of the trait.


I think you want

headstrong: not easily restrained : impatient of control, advice, or suggestions

I like this because it emphasizes head, i.e. thinking.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    That gets half of it, but doesn't imply anything about the intelligence of the person. – T.E.D. Sep 3 '13 at 13:38
  • My question is pretty hard to get right, but I do have to say that I love all the different answers! – Howie Sep 3 '13 at 18:53

Obstinate, possibly recalcitrant?

| improve this answer | |
  • Perhaps self-willed or strong-willed would be better suited for my purpose, but definitely good suggestions! – Howie Sep 2 '13 at 11:41
  • these words imply a no-matter-what kind of pig-headedness and are best avoided for describing accomplished knowledgeable but unbending characters. – user49727 Sep 2 '13 at 12:25

As I understand it the question refers to an uncompromising or self-determined individual.

| improve this answer | |

Do you like "pretentious" ?


"making usually unjustified or excessive claims (as of value or standing)"

| improve this answer | |
  • A person can be pretentious just by dressing a certian way. How would that fit this at all? – T.E.D. Sep 3 '13 at 13:40
  • "One who thinks knows everything/best", as described in the body of question, I usually call pretentious. (Certainly not necessarily smart nor stubborn, though.) – Pam Sep 3 '13 at 23:19
  • You should read that definition you linked a bit more carefully (or read this word a bit more in actual usage). Pretension is about (in the words of your link) importance, worth, or stature. In other words, social things. Not intelligence, or being right. Its more like "putting on airs", rather than "being a know-it-all". (I assure you, the irony of me sitting here trying to make a point about "know-it-alls" to several people is not lost. I'm going to go outside and re-evalulate my life now...) – T.E.D. Sep 4 '13 at 16:05

You might consider imperious

marked by arrogant assurance : domineering

There is no implication of smart in the term, but your explanation (right only half of the time) seems to belie the intelligence aspect.

| improve this answer | |
  • Not only does this leave out the smart, but it has an added implication of the person being (or percieving themsevles of being) in a position of power. Not appropirate for this usage at all. – T.E.D. Sep 3 '13 at 13:40

The traditional US term for it is smarty-pants.
The older term is Smart Aleck/Alec.

smarty-pants [ˈsmɑːtɪˌpænts], smarty-boots [ˈsmɑːtɪˌbuːts]
(functioning as singular) Informal a would-be clever person
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

smart′ al `eck (or al`ec) (ˈæl ɪk)
n. Informal.
an obnoxiously conceited and impertinent person.
[1860–65, Amer.; generic use of Aleck, nickname for Alexander]
smart′-aleck•y, smart′-aleck, adj.

| improve this answer | |
  • Disagree. That's a term for a completely different situation; when a person is getting technical unnessecarily. – T.E.D. Sep 3 '13 at 13:38
  • technical? Was there a requirement to be technical? – Blessed Geek Sep 3 '13 at 20:09
  • None whatsoever, hence my point. – T.E.D. Sep 3 '13 at 20:51

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