I'm looking for a word for someone who goes against conventional wisdom because they have sufficient evidence that it makes sense to do so. The only words I can think of, like contrarian, or hipster, have the connotation of being rebellious for the sake of being rebellious, not because it is the logical thing to do.

Any suggestions?

  • 1
    Scientist? Mar 25, 2015 at 23:43
  • That would fit, but I was thinking more in the context of everyday life. I'm trying to think of a good example of what I'm looking for. I'll update if I do. Mar 25, 2015 at 23:46
  • More generally than "scientist", here's "empricist". And specifically one who goes against conventional wisdom is an "iconoclast", although that's sort of tangential; that really just means someone who goes against tradition (it doesn't say anything about why). Mar 25, 2015 at 23:56
  • "Pragmatist", perhaps?
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 26, 2015 at 0:19
  • anarchist/terrorist
    – JMP
    Mar 26, 2015 at 3:38

6 Answers 6


A freethinker is:

n. a person who forms opinions on the basis of reason, independent of authority or tradition. [1685–95]

[Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc.]

  • 2
    Worth noting that the "freethinker" community and "atheist" community are (if not completely the same) strongly related in the U.S. Not sure if religious people realize that here, but certainly if you're speaking with atheists and call yourself a freethinker they'll assume you're also atheist. Worth letting the OP know that so they can avoid confusion. Mar 26, 2015 at 1:00
  • Perhaps the atheists are aware that others have different opinions. Mar 26, 2015 at 9:26
  • Sure. Although those with differing opinions on the definition of this word would be unfamiliar with the definition of the philosophical movement underlying this word: "Regarding religion, freethinkers hold that there is insufficient evidence to support the existence of supernatural phenomena.". Mar 26, 2015 at 22:24
  • Not necessarily. Those with opinions not exactly matching fundamentalist atheists about permitted senses of 'freethinker' may realise that the belief that words cannot be used with meanings different from earlier ones is the etymological fallacy. Mar 26, 2015 at 23:53
  • Of course you can use whatever definitions you want for whatever words you choose. But if you use this word to mean something nonstandard, prepare to be misunderstood by everyone. Mar 27, 2015 at 0:11

I think Reformer or Innovator sound less rebellious than other words that may easily come to mind.

  • Suppose the subject happens to believe the only logical thing to do is to return to an ancient dogma? Mar 25, 2015 at 23:58
  • @FumbleFingers It would still work; reform doesn't necessarily mean you're imposing something new- in fact, it implies that you're salvaging something that already exists. I'm sure if you asked any of the people trying to get creationism taught in science classes whether they wanted to reform the educational system, they'd say yes. Mar 26, 2015 at 1:03

You might be looking for iconoclast.


See this relevant page, centered on "maverick":

The Paradox of Countertransference: You and Me, Here and Now By Carol Holmes


Pioneer would be appropriate if the person is doing something new, but maverick would apply to almost any situation.


maverick: noun 1. an unorthodox or independent-minded person.


I use 'antinomian' but it seems to have a rather technical sense in theology so I am extending its dictionary definition.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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