A discussion arose in our office which brought about remembrance of an old term used by William F. Buckley, Jr. — from his old National Review days — in his "Word of the Day." We can't find the term on the Interwebs, so we come to SE:ELU in hopes of enlightenment.

The definition, as we recall is:

"Being ignorant of something of which you have neither reason nor expectation to have any knowledge."

I'd really like a reference to Buckley's WotD if possible since it will be used frequently in my geek- and academic-heavy office!

  • I'm guessing; .1. pig-ignorant .2.incorrigible.3. purblind.
    – Hugh
    Jun 11, 2015 at 13:48
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    I suppose there might be some justification for pig-ignorant (we don't exactly expect pigs to know much). But incorrigible usually applies to behaviour which is Incapable of being corrected, not lack of knowledge. And I only know purblind as pejorative dim-witted, stupid, so for me at least it doesn't carry associations of [naturally] unaware of knowledge one wouldn't be expected to have anyway. Jun 11, 2015 at 14:05
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    So to translate, you don't know about something that you probably aren't expected to know about? You may be literally a rocket scientist, but not know about gene sequencing? (because that's specialized knowledge outside of what you'd be expected to know)? Is that the meaning of the word? So it wouldn't really be a synonym of 'ignorant', right?
    – Mitch
    Jun 11, 2015 at 15:23
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    Apparently OP's target word has to be more nuanced or unique than unconversant. Which probably rules out ignoramus, since it's easy to find online definitions for that. But I doubt I'd find the variant ignoramo in many dictionaries, so that could be a contender (except Buckley probably never featured that one! :) Jun 11, 2015 at 18:29
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    As described in the comments on some answers, the user has additional requirements that haven't been edited into the question (and are still a little unclear.) I'm therefore flagging this question for closure until it is edited into a clearer form.
    – user867
    Jun 11, 2015 at 23:54

6 Answers 6


I think I may have found the term the OP is searching. It is without doubt a word I have never heard of before. It's worth citing the entire Wikipedia article


Ultracrepidarianism is the habit of giving opinions and advice on matters outside of one's knowledge.

The term ultracrepidarian was first publicly recorded in 1819 by the essayist William Hazlitt in an open Letter to William Gifford, the editor of the Quarterly Review: "You have been well called an Ultra-Crepidarian critic." It was used again four years later in 1823, in the satire by Hazlitt's friend Leigh Hunt, Ultra-Crepidarius: a Satire on William Gifford.

The term draws from a famous comment purportedly made by Apelles, a famous Greek artist, to a shoemaker who presumed to criticise his painting. The Latin phrase "Sutor, ne ultra crepidam", as set down by Pliny and later altered by other Latin writers to "Ne ultra crepidam judicaret", can be taken to mean that a shoemaker ought not to judge beyond his own soles. That is to say, critics should only comment on things they know something about. The saying remains popular in several languages, as in the English, "A cobbler should stick to his last", the Spanish, "Zapatero a tus zapatos", the Dutch, "Schoenmaker, blijf bij je leest", and the German, "Schuster, bleib bei deinem/deinen Leisten" (the last two in English, "shoemaker, stick to your last")

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    The question neither says nor implies anything about 'the habit of giving opinions and advice on matters outside of one's knowledge'.
    – jsw29
    Nov 15, 2020 at 17:31
  • I based the answer on the fact it was a word of the day, so the word had to be rare or highly unusual. Please note that you omitted the key element of the definition, i.e “giving opinions and advice on matters outside of one's knowledge.” The OP's personal definition says "Being ignorant of something" I think the two are not completely at odds with one another.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 20, 2020 at 10:56
  • When somebody here seeks help in remembering a specific word there is always a dilemma whether one should try to guess what is on the person's mind (even if it is not well explicated in the question), or to answer it solely on the basis of what is explicitly stated in the question (even though it might not be quite what the OP wants). If one takes the first approach, this answer is indeed the correct one, as is manifested by the OP's acceptance; the point of my comment was that it is problematic if one takes the second approach.
    – jsw29
    Nov 20, 2020 at 17:05

I was surprised how few online dictionaries specifically list this one...

unconversant - not conversant, unfamiliar, not well-versed
...from negated...
conversant - familiar by use or study (usually followed by with)

In my experience, when people say they're unconversant with X (or not well-versed in X), there's usually the implication that this lack of knowledge is only to be expected (because X is an obscure fact or field of study, for example).

Perhaps that implication flows naturally from the fact of using a relatively obscure term to describe one's ignorance (i.e. - whilst disclaiming specific knowledge of X, the speaker conveys to his audience that he's not "ignorant" in general).

  • Not many people know that. Jun 11, 2015 at 14:28
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    That's close, but this is more-specifically, a person who is Ignorant of their Ignorance.
    – Sam
    Jun 11, 2015 at 14:45
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    @SammyB: Then you should amend your question text to clarify, because I don't see any way to infer that from the question as currently framed. Perhaps you're looking for a one-word synonym for blissfully ignorant, in which case unenlightened or benighted might come close. Jun 11, 2015 at 14:51
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    @SammyB: Now I'm really confused! I've no idea why you think Buckley's words are likely to be "more nuanced or unique" than conversant. But putting that aside, you still haven't edited your question to reflect the requirement that the person thus described should be unaware of his ignorance. And you seem to have just added the further constraint that he should act as if he does know whatever it is that he doesn't know. So maybe he's just a bluffer. But where does the couldn't be expected to know element come in? Jun 11, 2015 at 18:19
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    @SammyB: Well, you're not exactly helping here. I've asked you twice to edit your question text, rather than leave potentially ephemeral comments to clarify the intended meaning of your target word. Jun 12, 2015 at 13:48

How about layman?

A person without professional or specialized knowledge in a particular subject: 'the book seems well suited to the interested layman' -- Oxford Dictionaries


I seem to remember Buckley distinguishing between ignorance and nescience. Ignorance was not knowing something you should know. Nescience was not knowing something that there was no reason for you to be expected to know.

I never have been able to validate this distinction when I looked in dictionaries, even old editions. I thought one of my pet peeves had struck again. Where ignorant people pervasively misused 'nescience' to the extent that, instead of steadfastly expecting these people to get it right, the dictionary editors insidiously made the incorrect usage correct, thereby causing a significant spike in the number of "knowledgeable scholars" in the general population.

Wait! What? I'm describing our current education system and society in general.


The Lexicon: A Cornucopia of Wonderful Words for the Inquisitive Word Lover By: William F. Buckley Jr.

This boon to logophiles, culled from Buckley: The Right Word, presents the author’s most erudite, outré, and interesting words - from prehensile and sciolist to rubric and histrionic - complete with definitions, examples, and usage notes. Introduction by Jesse Sheidlower; illustrations by Arnold Roth.

Google Books gives the definition of sciolist (in William Buckley’s lexicon) as:

sciolist (noun) One whose knowledge or learning is superficial; a pretender to scholarship. “I don’t believe you. You are an unaccomplished fake. An academic sciolist.”


sciolism - 1st appearing in early 1800s.

The practice, or an instance, of expressing opinions on something which one knows only superficially or has little real understanding of.

In the search, I came across this interesting study: The Dunning–Kruger Effect: On Being Ignorant of One’s Own Ignorance



The only phrase linked to Buckley that I could find was pontificate:

... from those shows on which journalists and commentators are invited to be pundits — to pontificate regardless of expertise. Buckley

pontificate defined here by Cambridge on line, example.

Mountebank, charlatan, sophist, phony and phoney are not pithy enough to be memorable. But from skimming some of the Articles, I have two suggestions and hope one of them has the right ring to it: the first describes the blague, the other names the blaguer.

spe·cious (spē′shəs) adj. 1. Having the ring of truth or plausibility but actually fallacious: a specious argument. specious - Oxford Dictionaries

poseur: a person who pretends to be what he or she is not : MW

If you find someone who genuinely remebers the Word of the Day I hope you''l post it.

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