What is the word for someone trying to seem/be deep and intelligent, but really they are shallow, and not at all being insightful.

Pedant is about rules, so that is disqualified, the closest I could find is pseudointellectual, but that feels like cheating and clumsy as it is a simple compound word.

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    For some reason, 'boss' leaps into my mind... – Roaring Fish Oct 16 '14 at 5:57
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    internet user?? – Fattie Oct 16 '14 at 6:59
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    Hah, my friend suggested "redditor" nearly instantly, top joke. – zvory Oct 16 '14 at 12:49
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    Russell Brand? :) – biziclop Oct 16 '14 at 14:25
  • Internet blogger. – Hot Licks Oct 16 '14 at 15:25

It's not common, but sciolist seems to have the required definition.

One who exhibits only superficial knowledge; a self-proclaimed expert with little real understanding.

I prefer this to sophist, which I think has a suggestion of deceit rather than just ignorance or error.


The word sophistication is from the Greek word sophis, which implies false or pompous wisdom. Appearing to be wise. Which is different from the Greek words sophee, sophia which mean wise, wisdom.

Therefore we have in English the words sophist, sophistry and sophism.

We also have the words

  • Smarty pants
  • Smart Aleck (more prevalent in Brit English)

smar·ty-pants, smart′ al`eck

n. Informal. an obnoxiously conceited and impertinent person.
[1860–65, Amer.; generic use of Aleck, nickname for Alexander]
smart′-aleck•y, smart′-aleck, adj.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.


n, pl -ries
  1. (Philosophy) a. a method of argument that is seemingly plausible though actually invalid and misleading b. the art of using such arguments
  2. subtle but unsound or fallacious reasoning
  3. an instance of this; sophism


  1. (Philosophy) an instance of sophistry. Compare paralogism

[from Latin sophisma, from Greek: ingenious trick, from sophizesthai to use clever deceit, from sophos wise, clever]

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003


  1. a. One skilled in elaborate and devious argumentation. b. A scholar or thinker.
  2. Sophist Any of a group of professional fifth-century b.c. Greek philosophers and teachers who speculated on theology, metaphysics, and the sciences, and who were later characterized by Plato as superficial manipulators of rhetoric and dialectic.

[Middle English sophiste, from Latin sophista, from Greek sophists, from sophizesthai, to become wise, from sophos, clever.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

  • Thank you! This is what I was looking for. I lack the reputation to +1, so I can only thank you. Its greek to boot which is excllent. Muchos gracias. – zvory Oct 16 '14 at 4:08
  • You could flag it as the answer, if it is sufficiently satisfactory. – Blessed Geek Oct 16 '14 at 4:09
  • Cool beans, didnt know I could do that. – zvory Oct 16 '14 at 4:11

I'd call someone like that an intellectual fraud, poseur, pseud, phoney intellectual or — notwithstanding your reservations, which I think are feeble — pseudointellectual.

  • I'm surprised you're the only person to have suggested pseud, which is probably the most commonly used word in British English for this concept. Ref "Pseuds' Corner" in the satirical magazine Private Eye. – user1725145 Oct 16 '14 at 14:01

Sophomoric suggests both limited experience and pretensions of knowledge:

suggestive of or resembling the traditional sophomore; intellectually pretentious, overconfident, conceited, etc., but immature

Wiseacre may fit, but is not widely used:

A person with an affectation of wisdom or knowledge, regarded with scorn or irritation by others; a know-it-all.


While it is not limited to intellectual chicanery, charlatan means

one making usually showy pretenses to knowledge or ability : fraud, faker


Or perhaps know-it-all

one who claims to know everything; also: one who disdains advice


  • I guess I meant more like a teenager who thinks they have everything figured out. A charlatan is not arrogant, they are merely pretending. Someone sure of themselves, convinced they are very intelligent, is what i am looking for. – zvory Oct 16 '14 at 2:24
  • Why not arrogant? – bib Oct 16 '14 at 2:29
  • thats just unwarranted confidence, the specific point is someone convinced of their own intelligence who flaunts it, but really is shallow and has no deep thought backing what they say. trying to seem intelligent. – zvory Oct 16 '14 at 2:31
  • See supplement. – bib Oct 16 '14 at 2:34
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    As Mark Twain said, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” – bib Oct 16 '14 at 2:38

Pseudo-intellectual---A person who pretends an interest in intellectual matters (theFree Dictionary.com.Eg., 'The guy is a pseudo-intellectual. He's so deep he's shallow.'

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