I'm looking for a single word to most aptly describe a person possessing the following "qualities":

  • Appears to be superior in every technology/skill under the sun, which he deems worthy of knowing
  • On being questioned/assigned the task, is found to have only superficial/no knowledge of the said skill.
  • Inherent tendency to "one-up" anyone and everyone - example: "I didn't work hard at all in my undergrad days, but yet I have better/equal grades than you have! "

Could someone help?

Edit: I've got some very good responses, but despite popular opinion for "braggart", I'm going with "pretentious" as it suits what I was looking for more aptly IMHO.

  • 1
    You might want to call them a narcissist as they almost certainly are one though it doesn't necessarily imply the lack of ability. Also see Dunning-Kruger effect for a possible cause of that character flaw en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect – Robb Apr 8 '11 at 17:16
  • You seem to have perfectly described what I would consider the stereotypical nerd. We nerds all have to admit that, deep down, we are like this. The nerd in any given situation who does this best is termed the alpha nerd or silver specs. – snumpy Apr 8 '11 at 17:20
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    @snumpy: A true nerd never needs to overstate his ability. – Ben Voigt Apr 8 '11 at 18:06
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    @Ben Voigt A true nerd never thinks he overstates his ability. – snumpy Apr 8 '11 at 18:43
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    @snumpy: Overstating one's ability without knowing it is a sure sign of a nerd-wannabe. See Robb's comment above. True nerds provide the basis for comparison which exposes the wannabe. – Ben Voigt Apr 8 '11 at 18:51

23 Answers 23


I think you may want pretentious.

Not a single word, but my favourite expression for this sort of person is all hat and no cattle.

  • The best one according to me - I'll accept it if nothing better comes along !! – TCSGrad Apr 9 '11 at 7:20
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    "All mouth and no trousers" is also used in parts of the UK. – Mike Speed Apr 9 '11 at 9:48

Some choices:

  • know-it-all

    A person who behaves as if they know everything

  • braggart

    A person who boasts about their achievements or possessions

  • blow-hard

    A boastful or pompous person

(Definitions from Oxford Dictionaries Online)

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    @shan23 - I wouldn't call braggart colloquial, I would consider it along the same lines as charlatan! – Robb Apr 8 '11 at 17:13
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    @shan23 I agree with @Robb - I consider braggart to be elegant and not colloquial at all. Perhaps you mean you're looking for something more diplomatic or tactful? – HaL Apr 8 '11 at 18:25
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    @apoorv: The meaning of know-it-all has shifted to a connotation similar to goody-two-shoes and is applied to people who merely think they know-it-all. – MrHen Apr 8 '11 at 19:59
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    @shan23: Don't feel any pressure to accept this answer if you don't like the word choices :) – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Apr 8 '11 at 20:40
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    Another +1 for braggart, that word popped into my mind before the page even loaded. – Adam Smith Apr 8 '11 at 23:40

Poseur comes to mind, particularly if that person doesn't live up to the qualities he or she boasts about.

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    I do believe that not having the skills claimed was a central part of the question, so poseur certainly is apropos. – Ben Voigt Apr 8 '11 at 18:49
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    I don't know if this is part of what shan had in mind, but this answer has the added advantage of sounding pretty pretentious itself, making it terribly delicious. – jhocking Apr 8 '11 at 20:06
  • Very apt word... +1 – TCSGrad Apr 9 '11 at 7:20

Egotistical, perhaps. It has the right connotations of conceit and excessive boasting.


You could use mouth, as in for example:

She’s all mouth.

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    "She's all mouth" will probably be misunderstood. – Neil G Apr 9 '11 at 5:57
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    What Neil said. I think you might mean "talk"...? "She's all talk" would sound a lot more natural to my ears, and means what I think you intend... – kitukwfyer Apr 9 '11 at 21:18
  • @kitukwfyer It's a UK idiom based on a Northern English expression. We use 'all talk' as well - which is probably a little less derogatory – user7128 Apr 10 '11 at 13:53

If you are willing to use popular culture, you can call him Topper after the character of that name in the popular comic strip Dilbert. Here is a link showing some strips featuring him.

  • Stole my answer :P – Kevin Apr 8 '11 at 18:28
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    That's nothing! I've answered 2900 english.SE questions suggesting to use “one-upper”, and they were all accepted. – Agos Apr 8 '11 at 23:56
  • Great link !! I continue to be amazed at the diversity of answers I get at SE... +1 !! – TCSGrad Apr 9 '11 at 7:07
  • @shan:Well SE is mostly a techie's forum, and Dilbert is a techie's comic strip. – apoorv020 Apr 9 '11 at 18:08

There’s quacksalver, which is someone who falsely claims to have certain skills or knowledge (especially, but not limited to, medical knowledge) for personal gain.

  • Interesting word - +1 – TCSGrad Apr 9 '11 at 7:17

How‪‪‪‪‪‪‪‪ about vainglorious?




nar·cis·sism    [nahr-suh-siz-em]

1. inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity.

2. Psychoanalysis . erotic gratification derived from admiration of one's own physical or mental attributes, being a normal condition at the infantile level of personality development.


He could be "a phony", or "all talk" (and no action), or "a poser", or "a fraud"; or, if you want to get wordy about it, he "has an overdeveloped sense of self-importance" or he's "too full of himself." (And if you want to be a bit mean, "clearly he's trying to compensate for something." [meaning, he talks so much about all his other supposed skills in order to cover for his lack of sexual prowess.])


If you want something that sounds a little more classy than "braggart" (which is an excellent word) you could always try "braggadocio." It's not as good as braggart, but it might fit.

My second choice would be "scaramouche." Scaramouche was the name of a stock character in Italian theatre for a time. In addition to boastfulness, the scaramouche was typically a coward and/or an idiot. Seems to fall in nicely with what you're looking for.

It's also the name of a great book by Rafael Sabatini...Must...plug...the master...:p

  • Braggadocio is not a noun in English, however. – Marcin Apr 9 '11 at 15:04
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    @Marcin Yes it is. Go check a dictionary! :) Still, I agree that it's used less commonly as a noun meaning braggart, but I've heard it done, and it seems it's allowed. – kitukwfyer Apr 9 '11 at 15:17
  • I stand corrected! – Marcin Apr 10 '11 at 13:47
  • scaramouche.... scaramouche? Will you do the fandango? – EleventhDoctor Jul 29 '15 at 9:59

Lots of good choices already, so I'll specialize: in business information technology, the operative word is consultant. Your points sum up the general modus operandi for how consultants a) get work without a formal interview process; and b) keep employees on the defensive, or from looking too closely at their credentials.


I like "topper" from Dilbert.

enter image description here


Arrogant or conceited may be what you're looking for. Given the description in your question, both seem to apply. I do not believe, however, that there is a single word which would cover both definitions and not be rather impolite.

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    An arrogant person need not engage in bragging or one upmanship – apoorv020 Apr 8 '11 at 17:42
  • Edited my answer. – ssakl Apr 8 '11 at 18:18

If my audience consisted entirely of Australians and/or New Zealanders, I would use the word skite. In my opinion, this is the best match for the sort of person you are describing.

If my audience contained people from outside of these two countries, I would have to concur with some of the other answers here, and pick braggart or narcissist.


Consider "wise guy," "wiseacre," "wisenheimer," and "smart aleck."

wise guy: Informal. a cocksure, conceited, and often insolent person; smart aleck: he has a reputation for being a wise guy.

"highfalutin" might also work in the way of adjectives.

highfalutin: seeming or trying to seem great or important; pretentious.


From the OP's question, I thought I understood that a noun was needed. So I suggest Rodomonte.

  • Rodomonte is a specific character. The derived noun rodomontade is more appropriate. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Nov 27 '14 at 16:45
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    @jwpat7 - The OP asked for a name/descriptor for the person, not for what they do. So I respectfully disagree. – MT_Head Nov 27 '14 at 20:14
  • OP's question asks for “a single word to most aptly describe” a certain kind of person. It doesn't contain the word name. Although I can imagine the possibility you might be right with your Rodomonte suggestion, I find it easier to believe in my rodomontade suggestion. :) – James Waldby - jwpat7 Nov 28 '14 at 6:16

I would suggest exhibitionist.


On reading the title I immediately thought of "braggart" but on reading the full question I realized the word that comes closest is "wanker".

Of course this may only work in the British Isles, Australia, and New Zealand. And it will have higher levels of rudeness in certain demographics. Bit it's the best word (-:


How about bullshitter. Though not for formal documents obviously.


"Sciolist", meaning "someone who claims to be knowledgable and well-informed" could work, as could "dilettante", meaning "a person who cultivates an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge", though the former seems more applicable and less subject-specific.


How about a "pseudo-intellectual" ? I heard it a few times.


A show-off, according to Cambridge Dictionary:

disapproving, "a person who shows off (= behaves in a way intended to attract attention that other people often find annoying)" 1

A grandstander, according to Cambridge Dictionary:

disapproving, "someone who acts or speaks in a way that is intended to attract attention and impress people watching" 2


1 "Grandstander Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary." Cambridge Dictionary. Accessed March 25, 2018. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/grandstander?a=british.

2 "Grandstander Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary." Cambridge Dictionary. Accessed March 25, 2018. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/grandstander?a=british.

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