The word I seek describes a person who is right, but doesn't know why. It's an amazing word to use in scenario's where people win favor by stating an otherwise known truth for crowd validation, but they specifically don't know why they're right and you know enough to call them on it.

I know this word exists. It starts with the letter "C" (if I recall correctly). It's a corker of a word and I need it back for my general argument & self-righteous diatribe repertoire. No, it's not comprehension or comprehend.

It's not a common word.

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    If it's not conscious it's instinctive. I know you're looking for a more posh sounding word, but "he's got good instincts" "he's instinctive" could fit your description. – P. O. Jul 27 '15 at 12:31
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    Hi @Tony Harrisson and welcome to ELU! Can you please add an example sentence, with a space for the missing word, to give some idea of usage? To confirm, are you looking for an adjective to describe the person, or perhaps a verb, to ask them to justify their assertions? Thanks for the interesting question:) – Julie Carter Jul 27 '15 at 12:39
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    Are they right or wrong? You say they 'know' but then you say you 'call them on it'. This seems to imply they may actually be wrong. Could you expand on this please? – chasly - supports Monica Jul 27 '15 at 12:48
  • As far as you can recall, is the word particularly long; does it sound Latin / German / French; would anyone understand it; is it a noun or an adjective? – Mari-Lou A Jul 27 '15 at 21:53
  • Related discussion: Can one jump to good conclusions? – Sven Yargs Jul 28 '15 at 19:59

New answer, as of 30 July

If there is a deliberate attempt to deceive, I believe the word casuistry is applicable, as it describes subtle but misleading reasoning that is superficially correct. An abridged version of the definition according to vocabulary.com is:


  1. n argumentation that is specious or excessively subtle and intended to be misleading
  2. n moral philosophy based on the application of general ethical principles to resolve moral dilemmas

If you allow words that don't start with the letter "c", then sophistry might also be a good choice. The Merriam-Webster definition thereof:

sophistry noun soph·ist·ry \ˈsä-fə-strē\

: the use of reasoning or arguments that sound correct but are actually false

: a reason or argument that sounds correct but is actually false

In other words, someone can take an established fact and concoct an argument showing it is true based on a false premise and a fallacious proposition (e.g., calculating 16/64 = 1/4 by canceling the sixes).

Previous answer

According to the four stages of competence theory, such a person may be unconsciously competent, particularly if the knowledge is skill-based and so can be acquired through repetition, or through trial-and-error rather than education. It is then feasible to have knowledge that cannot be verbalised.

According to Steven Aitchison, the four stages of competence can be summarised as:

  1. Unconscious incompetence – The individual neither understands nor knows how to do something, nor recognizes the deficit, nor has a desire to address it. In short, you don’t know what you don’t know.
  2. Conscious incompetence – Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, without yet addressing it. This is the stage where you know what you don’t know.
  3. Conscious competence – The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires a great deal of consciousness or concentration. You know how to do it, but you have to think your way through it.
  4. Unconscious competence – The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it becomes “second nature” and can be performed easily (often without concentrating too deeply). This is the stage where you can do it without thinking. You just know what to do.
  • The four stages of competence remind me that in Carlos Castaneda's books, the Yaqui sorcerer Don Juan teaches about four stages of competence that he labels fear, clarity of purpose, power, and old age. There seems to be some correspondence between the two sets of labels. – Feralthinker Jul 29 '15 at 5:30
  • Consider that OP says, "The word I seek describes a person who is right, but doesn't know why," to which you respond with sophistry: "a reason or argument that sounds correct but is actually false." That is actually the opposite of what OP is looking for. – Jake Regier Jul 31 '15 at 4:20
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    @JakeRegier - Have you considered that an argument can be specious even if the conclusions are true? I can take any established fact and concoct an argument showing it is true based on a false premise and a fallacious proposition. Would you say that calculating 16/64 = 1/4 by canceling the sixes is correct? – Marconius Jul 31 '15 at 10:27
  • @Marconius Understood. I had to edit your answer to vote it up, but feel free to excise my addition (which is really yours). – Jake Regier Jul 31 '15 at 16:28

It sounds like the person would be a cliché-monger, or otherwise use thought-terminating clichés. Synonyms would include cliché-personality or cliché-ridden.

One who utters [clichés] to excess is a cliché-monger. The term is not a common one but is listed in the OED, with two examples from 1947 & 1962, though without its own explicit definition.

Most likely, such a person's arguments would likely contain logical fallacies, so you may find some other leads there.

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