I have an annoying friend that he frequently asks me questions in which he'll be the one to answer at the end if I can't answer his questions. Here the situation goes:

Friend: Hey Jay, do you know the medical term where the nerves intersect, i.e. in the spinal column, that's why right brain hemisphere controls the left side of the body and vice versa?
Me: No. I really have no idea. Sorry.
Friend: It is called "decussation".
Me: Oh okay.
Friend: Now, what do you call a person who frequently asks questions even though they know the answer?
Me: Hmmm I don't have the slightest idea.
Friend: It is ______, Jay. You really need to read books.
Me: WTF!

Is there a way to describe this kind of personality?

  • 4
    a "trivia show-off"?
    – Hellion
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 17:51
  • 2
    jackass or turkey work
    – user970638
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 21:27
  • 17
    "Lawyer". In fact, they are taught to not ask questions in court that they don't know the answer to.
    – Mark Adler
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 23:00
  • 5
    My Ph.D. supervisor / any academic... Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 0:45
  • 1
    A teacher (one would hope). Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 9:09

11 Answers 11


Didactic as defined by Google: in the manner of a teacher, particularly so as to treat someone in a patronizing way.

  • I like this. A "didactic Socrates" covers all points of the question, but falls out of the single-word-request purview.
    – Patrick M
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 18:07
  • Also "didactic nerd" fits but "didactic" doesn't necessarily cover "asking questions".
    – ermanen
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 18:32
  • 8
    Huh. I've never known didactic to explicitly refer to anything patronizing. Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 1:47
  • @PatrickM It is not a single-word request.
    – Jaeger Jay
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 5:47
  • 1
    The expression didactic way is by far more common than "didactic person". See Ngram Didactic poem/poetry and works; however, are most commonly used.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 5:52


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

Another choice, that's an Americanism is


A person who behaves in an irritatingly smug or arrogant fashion, typically by making clever remarks and displaying their knowledge.

  • 4
    I've never heard "wisenheimer" ever, and I'm American. Also you should know that "wiseacre" is a very clear euphemism for a less work-safe word that starts the same.
    – neminem
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 22:37
  • 3
    @neminem - wiseacre's etymology appears independent of wiseass. Most sources attribute its root to Middle Dutch wijssegger. The two words in my answer may not be as commonly used as they once were, but it's easy to find current usages of both. Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 22:43
  • 1
    Huh, really? That's neat, I really thought one was a clear derivation of the other, like when you say it "hurts like a mother", when that is clearly not what you actually meant. Neat. I definitely hear "wiseacre" occasionally, just in situations where the person clearly meant to say "wiseass" but felt he couldn't.
    – neminem
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 22:51
  • 7
    This american is familiar with wisenheimer, though I think it's dated, like poindexter.
    – stevesliva
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 0:02
  • 1
    @AndrewCoonce doubt I've heard it spoken unless it was on TV from the 60s. Like "golly."
    – stevesliva
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 18:48

I think that the best term is Pedant. From the Merriam-Webster site:

Pedant : a person who annoys other people by correcting small errors and giving too much attention to minor details


one who makes a show of knowledge


one who is unimaginative or who unduly emphasizes minutiae in the presentation or use of knowledge

  • 13
    While someone who does ask questions in this way could be a pedant, I don't think of that when someone says the word "pedant". Rather, I imagine someone who nitpicks others' statements and generally gives unnecessary corrections or bits of information (much like your definitions imply).
    – Cat
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 21:24
  • 1
    I'm going to be pedantic here and alert you of the fact that there is a space before the colon.
    – Dog Lover
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 22:14
  • I think @Eric s answer gives away his pedant side :-). I guess my picking on his comment shows that I'm a pedant as well :-) (pun intended in both sentences)
    – LMSingh
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 7:20
  • Pedant is a better fit than anything else given so far.
    – Paul
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 13:30
  • 1
    @Eric - You're right. I was thinking that, to be more precise, you would need more than a single word. Socratic pedagogue, maybe? That would be pretty clunky.
    – Rob
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 14:48

Whereas the behavior OP describes is a form of one-upmanship, one who regularly engages in such behavior is usually considered to be lacking in self-esteem, and so, by way of compensation, becomes a boastful person, or a boaster.

one-upmanship noun:

• behavior in which someone tries to get an advantage by doing, saying, or having better things than someone else

• the art or practice of outdoing or keeping one jump ahead of a friend or competitor. “engaged in a round of verbal one-upmanship

First Known Use of one-upmanship: 1952; (Merriam-Webster online)


intransitive verb: 1: to puff oneself up in speech : speak vaingloriously

transitive verb: 1. to speak of or assert with excessive pride. 2 a: to possess and often call attention to (something that is a source of pride). “boasts a new stadium”

boaster noun: someone who boasts. “I'm tired of hearing about that boaster's new car.”

Synonyms: blower, blowhard, boaster, brag, braggadocio, bragger, cockalorum, cracker [chiefly dialect], gascon, gasconader, swaggerer, vaunter. Related Words blusterer, cock; self-advertiser, self-dramatizer, self-promoter. (all linked definitions courtesy of Merriam-Webster online)


I call them "Ask-holes". Those are people who ask a question who either know the answer, or ask but don't wait for (or want) the answer.

  • 1
    The Urban Dictionary does in fact contain examples of the term (don't know why I was surprised), ask-hole, however those definitions neither accord with yours nor bear upon this OP. Could you point to some examples of usage, please?
    – user98990
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 17:14

I submit Socratic as an adjective, as in the Socratic method.

Socratic method, also known as method of elenchus, elenctic method, or Socratic debate, is named after the classical Greek philosopher Socrates. It is a form of inquiry and discussion between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to illuminate ideas.

Source: Wikipedia contributors. "Socratic method." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 3 Jul. 2015. Web. 13 Jul. 2015.

Using this to describe a person presupposes that their intent is principally to inform or teach, not just show off. However, continuously interjecting a conversation with non-sequiturs like this is certainly more annoying than informative, so your subject in question is at best oblivious and at worst attention seeking (or even down-putting, intending for the listeners to feel inferior or belittled).

  • 6
    The Socratic method is a method of reasoning, wherein questions are intended to advance a thought process. This person is merely asking people what something is called, there is no argument being advanced.
    – Val Kornea
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 18:08

There are plenty of words or phrases. The better you know the person, the better equipped you are to choose the right one. I suggest:

"a know-all"

  • (noun) (informal, derogatory) a person who pretends or appears to know a great deal Dictionary.com

"a pseudointellectual"

  • (noun) a person exhibiting intellectual pretensions that have no basis in sound scholarship. Dictionary.com

"a show-off"

I myself would call him "a bore" or "soporific".

  • 1
    Show-off is good. The word pseudo-intellectual refers only to individuals who have little knowledge or none but pretends to be smart. My OP isn't showing any pretensions. In fact, he's somewhat bragging the things he know.
    – Jaeger Jay
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 6:55

I'd suggest "quizmaster", though I recognize that's probably not a sufficiently devastating thing to put in that dialogue's blank.


Someone people think of them as a human dictionary or someone who loves patronizing. Or a worrywart- if they can't reassure themselves of something they show know, they tend to ask questions.

Other words are: nerdy, insecure, egoistatical, likes to elicit a lot, teacher(if it was a trick or rhetorical question),cocky or cheeky and studious.


Based on the french word "cuistre" that I can think of for that description, I would say Pedant or Prig or All-knowing pedant or even Conceited pedant.

  • 1
    To be pedantic, the word pedant describes a very different character trait.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 11:40

The word you are looking for is DISINGENUOUS meaning one who professes to know less than they actually do.

  • 2
    How do you know he is disingenuous? This answer is not that related to the question.
    – ermanen
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 18:35
  • 3
    I don't think this word fits -- he doesn't profess not to know the meanings of these words. Someone disingenuous has the goal of convincing the other person that they themselves are naive, not knowledgeable. Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 22:13
  • Maybe you meant to write "who professes to know MORE than they actually do." In a Socratic dialog, Socrates is the one who professes to know less than he really does (hence, he's in an ironic mode, or simply the eiron), whereas his interlocutor, the alazon, is a braggart of sorts who professes/pretends to know more than he actually does. Socrates, of course, puts him in his place! Don Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 12:37

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