What single words and idioms would best describe someone who loves to sit in judgment of others, almost making it a hobby to become a nitpicker. They are aware but un-acknowledging of their own deficiencies and of their non-eligibility as critics. They are overly critical of others, yet vehemently intolerant of any criticisms directed to them. I guess it is a combination of spite, rudeness and lack of insight. But they are not stupid.

As examples you could imagine an unaccomplished reality TV judge (I’m not sure what credentials they possess) being spiteful and mean. This may not be a very good example because sometime the judges put on a veneer of [this attribute] for ratings? Or say a colleague at work who feels threatened by your skills? Or a meddlesome neighbour perhaps who is jealous of your success?

Edit: Having considered the responses so far one apt overarching word I think is hostile, but perhaps there are better words or idioms? Another word that applies perhaps is caviling.

  • 4
    Besides judgemental? Sep 2, 2013 at 18:33
  • yes - the element of their own inadequacy, and of spitefulness, is missing
    – user49727
    Sep 2, 2013 at 18:35
  • good suggestion - in fact one wonders why these haven't yet appeared in yellow journalism argot ...
    – user49727
    Sep 2, 2013 at 19:06
  • 1
    There must be an idiom for this phenomenon? The reason I ask is that I can only come up with unspeakable expletives.
    – user49727
    Sep 2, 2013 at 19:07

10 Answers 10


Such people could be called armchair critics.

An armchair critic is someone who offers advice but never shows that they could actually do any better.

  • This is perhaps closest - though I've used 'armchair' for philosophers I didn't know that 'critics' can be used in such a broad context. But I still feel that calling them 'critics' nevertheless elevates them in estimation - something that they are wholly undeserving of ...
    – user49727
    Sep 3, 2013 at 13:46

Maybe this should be an answer after all:

Given your comparison to reality show judges; if you are thinking of a particular such judge, create an adjective from their name, as in Sternian or Mandelian or Cowellian.

  • 2
    Of course this will only be understood in a specific social context, I've never heard of any of these people.
    – terdon
    Sep 2, 2013 at 19:30
  • 3
    I am not so fortunate. ;-) Sep 2, 2013 at 19:35

Sneering can have this meaning when used to describe a person or people - a personality inclined to sneer at others.

It implies spite and scorn - hostile, contemptuous unjustified judgment and a sense of assumed superiority. It also that the person judges others because they enjoy spiteful judging.

A few examples from the press:

Sneering TV talent-show judge Simon Cowell...

Why sneering reality television is as bad as the Roman amphitheatre

The Real Romney Captured on Tape Turns Out to Be a Sneering Plutocrat

Keith Kloor lumps me with Dawkins as sneering, strident, and...

Since it's an adjective and Shyam's suggestion is a noun, you can combine the two. "Armchair critic" implies inadequacy, and "sneering" implies spite.

I can't stand these sneering armchair critics who judge talent shows.

(just be careful you're not sneering or an armchair critic yourself when criticizing those who are!)

  • Ngram of the corresponding noun 'sneerer' returned a horizontal zero! Is this because one would rather cuss them?
    – user49727
    Sep 3, 2013 at 11:25

You could also modify tin-pot dictator:

tin-pot dictator (plural tin-pot dictators)
An autocratic ruler with little political credibility, but with self-delusions of grandeur.

You could twist that to your meaning and call them tin-pot critics.

Other options that come to mind are various combinations of

  • self-important
    Having, or behaving as if having, too high an opinion of one's own importance.
    The assistant manager was a self-important fellow who strutted about the office barking instructions.

  • gasbag
    2 Slang One given to empty or boastful talk.

I think you should be able to coin something that is both descriptive and clear with a combination of the above and the armchair critic from Shyam's answer.

  • a very good suggestion - thanks. The image of tin pot goes very well with this type of personality.
    – user49727
    Sep 2, 2013 at 20:13

In the urban community this is often referred to as "hater". See full definition here.

  • 3
    +1 - and there's also the related expression/meme "haters gonna hate", which means roughly "the criticisms of an armchair critic can be disregarded, for they say more about the mindset of the critic than they say about the object of the criticism" Sep 5, 2013 at 9:01


While it is originally associated with morality or virtue, it is used informally to describe an attitude of being better than others while also being judgmental, where righteous takes on a looser meaning of being perfect, excellent or genuine.

confident of one's own righteousness, especially when smugly moralistic and intolerant of the opinions and behavior of others.

Sanctimonious and Holier-Than-Thou can be used informally the same way.

The obvious word is "judgmental", given by Pieter in the comments, but it doesn't include a hint of self-assumed perfection on part of the one doing the judging.

An Elitist is one who believes they are among a select group of people who (by virtue of birth, intellect, training, education, experience) assume their judgement is superior to that of others.


You could call them tinhorn critics - someone who pretends to be important but actually has little money, influence, or skill.


Perhaps self-opinionated

having an unduly high regard for oneself or one's own opinions

  • 1
    Aren't opinions already self-induced?
    – Mitch
    Sep 3, 2013 at 1:02
  • @Mitch Many opinions are based on personal assessments of external information. This phrase suggests that the practitioner looks more inwardly (and is more impervious to external contradiction) than most.
    – bib
    Sep 3, 2013 at 1:04

I think the word you want is pseudo-intellectual. I think that's the combination of pedantry and incompetence you're looking for.

  • yes but the element of malice is missing. I think Shyam's suggestion is the closest unless someone can come up with a better idiom.
    – user49727
    Sep 3, 2013 at 11:00

Judges - a public official selected to decide cases in a court of law
District attoruneys

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