I friend of mine, when teachers address questions to the whole class, always need to volunteer an answer to show off how smart they are.

Therefore, I'm looking for a term which define that my friend.

A bit of googling come up with 'suck', but Merriam-Webster doesn't have an entry which matches that description, being the best 'to act in an obsequious manner'.

So, what do you call a person like that student?

  • The answer depends on the source of his need. For example he could be bored and want the class to go faster. He could be smart and want to help out the teacher with accurate answers. – dcaswell Sep 13 '13 at 15:59
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    It would also depend on whether he was trying to impress the teachers (sucking up to them) or his class (showing off to them). He could show off to both teachers and class, but he can't suck up to the class because he is trying to show he is better than they are. – Mynamite Sep 13 '13 at 20:26
  • Your question already has the best answer, "show off". It is both a verb and a noun and is a very common expression among kids, it's also much less offensive than "to suck up to" someone. – Mari-Lou A Sep 14 '13 at 11:16
  • @Mari-Lou, then? – user51029 Sep 14 '13 at 11:17
  • @AtsutoNagatomo There are many other users who know much much more than I do, but I've never been afraid to attempt to answer a question if I think I know the answer. Am I a show off, then? Perhaps everyone on ELU is, to one degree or another. – Mari-Lou A Sep 14 '13 at 11:23

Brown noser is a good overall term. You can use kiss-ass too. But in the US this specific example would be called a teacher's pet.

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    Not really. A teacher's pet implies that there is some kind of favoritism shown by the teacher to the pupil. – Jacobm001 Sep 13 '13 at 16:03
  • Is 'kiss-ass' a derogatory term? My friend is a sensible person and I don't want to offend him. – user51029 Sep 13 '13 at 16:05
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    If it is a friend then "teacher's pet" is a perfect phrase. You can say, "Look at you answering all the questions. You are a teacher's pet." But to my good friends I would definitely say, "You are such a kiss-ass." Yes it is derogatory but that is what friends are for. – RyeɃreḁd Sep 13 '13 at 16:09
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    @AtsutoNagatomo: Yes, it's derogatory. It could be used in a joking manner, but if you say it with serious intentions he probably won't appreciate it. – Jacobm001 Sep 13 '13 at 16:10
  • @Jacobm001 - in his question he asks how he would define his friend. His friend is a kiss-ass. He didn't say he would use that term to his friend. Also in the US people would be more offended by suck up, brown noser, or show off. Kiss-ass has more of a playful meaning than those terms. – RyeɃreḁd Sep 13 '13 at 16:12

Normally, the person would just be called a show off or a know it all. Neither have particularly good connotations; the first would definitely be derogatory in most settings.

Depending on the situation/person, insecure could also fit the bill.


insecure (comparative more insecure, superlative most insecure)

  1. Not secure.
  2. Not comfortable or confident in oneself or in certain situations.

He's a nice guy and all, but seems to be rather insecure around other people.

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    +1 for show-off: a person who tries to impress other people with his or her abilities or possessions. If said jokingly to a friend, show-off wouldn't be that bad. – JLG Sep 13 '13 at 16:14
  • Neither one of those words really fits the specific situation. Earnest may - although dated, and brown-noser is a good term too. – RyeɃreḁd Sep 13 '13 at 16:15

know-it-all, but that's a phrase.


I hear the term brown-noser for that a lot. The term you might have run across is suck-up. I'd be careful with calling your friend "suck" :)

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    If, as you mentioned in another comment, your friend is of a sensitive disposition, you should probably also not call him a brown-noser or a suck-up. Sucking up to someone has a very negative sound to it, and ‘brown-noser’ comes from the notion that if you ‘kiss ass’ (= suck up to someone), interpreted literally, then you will be positioning your nose in a way that … brown stuff is likely to get on it. Both a slangy, negative, and also quite disgusting term, really. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 13 '13 at 16:23

He's an earnest student...

earnest - serious in intention, purpose, or effort; sincerely zealous.

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    I disagree with this one. An earnest student does not necessarily show off in class (he is just very serious and eager in studying), and a show-off like the one described in the question is not necessarily an earnest student (he might just be really clever by nature and not put much effort into studying). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 13 '13 at 16:18
  • I am not downvoting because I think it maybe could be used. But if I called a friend earnest, they would think I was calling them by the first name Ernest. "You answered a lot of questions today, you are very earnest".... "Huh? My name is Jack." – RyeɃreḁd Sep 13 '13 at 16:25
  • @Janus: I know that strictly speaking, earnest is supposed to mean serious, as opposed to trifling. But in practice if you asked a teacher to say who was his most earnest student, I think they'd be influenced by zealous in my definition, and eager in yours - in short, they'd name the student who was most keen to show they were "actively engaged" in the classroom. It works for me, anyway, and at least it's not "slang", which all other offerings seem to be. – FumbleFingers Sep 13 '13 at 16:32
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    @FumbleFingers - I know it's used but it is one of those words that is used in writing not forms of speech. If I used it my friends might offer me a top hat or an outing chasing the foxes. – RyeɃreḁd Sep 13 '13 at 16:41
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    @RyeBread: Buy your friends dictionaries for Xmas! – FumbleFingers Sep 13 '13 at 16:47

Pedantic or pedant - an ostentatious display of knowledge if it's of a factual or overly specific nature. Sententious if it has a moral or philosophical bent.


In a science context I'd use the phrase "alpha-Geek".


Conceited - excessively proud of oneself; vain. (Oxford Dictionaries)

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