What's a word for someone who tries to be clever?

For example you spell something wrong, just a small typo such as one letter in the word wrong, and they call you out about it knowing full well what you meant?

It wouldn't be sarcastic would it?

4 Answers 4


Insufferable Know-it-all. Quote from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban:

Professor Snape: That is the second time you have spoken out of turn, Miss Granger. Tell me, are you incapable of restraining yourself, or do you take pride in being an insufferable know-it-all?

  • I would be interested to know if that was one of the changes made for the sake of the Scholastic Edition (American) from the original Bloomsbury Edition (British). In the UK the usual idiom is know-all.
    – WS2
    Jun 13, 2015 at 9:20
  • @WS2 - The above quote is from the 2004 movie. But even in the Bloomsbury hard-copy I've got (Indian Edition), its know-it-all, though the context is a bit different: ‘Five more points from Gryffindor for being an insufferable know-it-all.’ Jun 13, 2015 at 9:33
  • @WS2 Ooh, interesting. I would definitely have said know-it-all was usual, and I'm British. I wonder whether it's regional (I grew up in the south) or generational (I'm 38)... or just me? I can't find anything in a quick search of dictionaries, beyond the fact know-all is chiefly British.
    – Morton
    Jun 13, 2015 at 9:34
  • 1
    @Morton Well I'm 70, and born and bred in Norfolk. Know-all is the way it always used to be. After all what can the it possibly refer to in know-it-all?
    – WS2
    Jun 13, 2015 at 10:03
  • @WS2 "Do you know Sanskrit grammar?" "Oh, I know it all". Know-it-all is less grammatical as a noun, now I think about it, but it's easy to see how the "it" would creep in. Assuming you're right about it being an American expression (I've no reason to think otherwise), I wonder if it's cultural influences - for example this song is apparently from 1973, just before I was born - and if so, whether the cultural influences worked on my whole generation or just on me.
    – Morton
    Jun 13, 2015 at 10:19

Given your example specifically about small details, you could call them pedantic (Google searched the term "pedant"):

A pedant is a person who is excessively concerned with minor details and rules or with displaying academic learning.


smart al·eck

noun: smart alec
1. a person who is irritating because they behave as if they know everything.
adjective: smart alec
1. irritating as a result of behaving as if one knows everything.
"a smart-aleck answer"
Oxford Dictionaries

  • superior answer. don't know the degree of formality; anyway, "insufferable" is fluff. Jun 14, 2015 at 4:19
  • Reference, please (for the OP's and future website users' sake)? Otherwise, a great answer :-)
    – Lucky
    Jun 18, 2015 at 1:34

I'll offer the more vulgar and somewhat crass smart arse. From BBC News (today, in fact):

She described the crossword proposal as a "typical" gesture for Mr Dick, who she described as "a smart-arse at the best of times"

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