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I am trying to describe a character who insults and degrades everyone around her to feel better and to give the appearance that she is superior to everyone else. This character doesn't actually dislike anyone, but feels compelled to act in an arrogant manner because of her high social standing. Is there any word or phrase that can help me describe this person, particularly something that implies the motivation behind her disrespectful actions?

closed as primarily opinion-based by user66974, Misti, Ellie Kesselman, Kristina Lopez, ermanen Jun 13 '15 at 0:34

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  • Explaining the motivation behind her actions is like guessing why she behaves in such an arrogant way and this make this question an opinion-based one. – user66974 Jun 11 '15 at 5:55
  • @Josh61 By motivation I simply mean her desire to feel superior to others. – scribblemaniac Jun 11 '15 at 5:59
  • so it's a rich person, who degrades those beneath her. so you're saying the person is rude - BUT - only because she (mistakenly, as it were) feels that rich people are supposed to be rude. is that right ?!?! – Fattie Jun 11 '15 at 6:00
  • @JoeBlow That is correct. – scribblemaniac Jun 11 '15 at 6:00
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    Not clear why no one suggests condescending? Motivation is speculative as someone else hinted. Thanks. – user98955 Jun 11 '15 at 8:48
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A narcissist. Somebody can have narcissistic tendencies or characteristics or, at the extreme, Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

However, I don't think this fits with the idea of social standing or social superiority. That is more akin to snobbery.

There is also "social elitist" or "social elitism" which may imply the kind of behaviour you describe.

"Nouveau riche" (new money) describes people who lack social grace and manners and therefore may behave in the way you describe, but this term also implies other behaviour such as vulgar consumerism, and material wealth rather than any cunning or devious tendency to put people down.

narcissistic tendencies induced by social elitism...?

  • Hi @Rosamunda and welcome to ELU. Thank you for posting a considered answer to the above question. You may wish to support your answer by adding links to definitions for 'narcissist', 'social elitism' and 'nouveau riche'. Reputable sources include ODO and Dictionary.com – Julie Carter Jun 11 '15 at 11:08
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Imperious, perhaps? "Expecting people to obey you and treating them as if they are not as important as you" (citation).

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Overbearing

unpleasantly overpowering.

Self-important

having an exaggerated sense of one's own value or importance.

Egotistical

excessively conceited or absorbed in oneself; self-centred.

Egocentric

thinking only of oneself, without regard for the feelings or desires of others; self-centred.

Egomania is also known as an obsessive preoccupation with one's self and applies to someone who follows their own ungoverned impulses and is possessed by delusions of personal greatness and feels a lack of appreciation. Someone suffering from this extreme egocentric focus is an egomaniac.(Source: Wikipedia)

Remember, egotistical < egocentric < egomaniac.

Source: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/

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The only reason people behave like this, surely, is because of a deep-seated sense of inferiority. But we have strayed into the realm of psychoanalysis.

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So you're saying

"A rich person, who degrades those beneath her. BUT - only because she (mistakenly, as it were) feels that rich people are supposed to be rude."

My God, that's so subtle.

Could it possibly be that what you're getting at is she's a "try-hard" or similar? As a Scottish grandmother might say, she's a "would-be that could-be" (i.e,, a faker, someone not from the manner born who wants to be)?

Do you possibly mean a

nouveau-riche

type?? that is sometimes used to imply fake, didn't grow-up-with-it imperiousness. (Although more usually, just "very poor taste in handbags, buys expensive cars foolishly thinking that's what rich people do," etc.)

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    Uhm..doesn't nouveau-riche mean 'the new rich'? I mean that's the class of people that has recently acquired wealth and doesn't know how to use it. In a desperate attempt to climb up the social ladder, these people buy all those things that they feel, will make them look richer. – Aishwarya A R Jun 11 '15 at 6:18

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