What is the difference between cocky and confidence. Saying the words, "I am going to win" can come off as both cocky and confidence to any person.

In my perspective, if you win, you were "confident" and if you lose after saying that, you would be considered "cocky." Are there or can there be more objective differentiating factors other than winning?

According to dictionary.com, confidence is strong belief in one-self. When using dictionary.com for cocky, it is simply arrogant. Using google and looking up arrogant, it is defined as "having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one's own importance or abilities." So if by winning, would it not be considered over-exaggerating your abilities and therefore be considered confidence as he believed in himself?

  • I think that had you stopped after your first sentence, it might have been a useful question for this site. But you have effectively turned it into something more about human behaviour than about the English Language.
    – WS2
    Sep 12 '15 at 9:37
  • Is it better now? Sep 12 '15 at 9:42
  • 2
    Could you show us some of the dictionary definitions you looked up and specify which part of them was unclear, please?
    – terdon
    Sep 12 '15 at 9:49
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    Although a "cocky" person and a "confident" one might exhibit the same general behavior, the cocky person is more apt to talk about his importance or abilities, while a confident person lets his actions do the talking.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 12 '15 at 12:35

All cocky people are confident, but not all confident people are cocky. Cocky adds to confident an aura of arrogant superiority.

If I say, "I'm quite sure this answer is correct," then I'm being confident.

If I add, "No one is going to be able to write a better answer than this one," then I'm being cocky.

I think your example (which discusses winners and losers) is a bit contrived. Just because a player is confident she can win doesn't make her cocky if she doesn't. Cocky is tied more to the attitude than to the result.

  • 5
    Correction: Cocky people appear to be confident. Their cockiness is often a mask for an inner lack of confidence.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 12 '15 at 12:32
  • @HotLicks - That's another way to look at it, yes. But sometimes cocky people exude confidence, and then they back it up as well. Reminds me of Joe Namath during his playing days.
    – J.R.
    Sep 12 '15 at 12:49
  • Yes, sometimes cocky people are "justified" in their exhibited confidence, sometimes not.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 12 '15 at 12:54

I don't agree with your reasoning at all. The tone of voice and the actions of the person saying them decide what adjectives are appropriate. Simply by adding that context we can change the meaning, e.g.

In order to give himself confidence before the race he looked in the mirror and - just as his coach had suggested - said three times, "I am going to win".

That version doesn't show cockiness and he is doing it because he lacks confidence. Compare

He strutted around thrusting his face into those of the other competitors and saying with a grin, "I am going to win."

That version, I suggest shows someone being cocky.

Here is a definition of 'cocky' that explains the difference.


ˈkɒki adjective

conceited or confident in a bold or cheeky way.

Google Search

  • 1
    Please look at the new edit. And for this scenario, what if the person does win? It shows that he did believe in himself, which is what confident means according to dictionary.com. In addition, he did not over-exaggerate his abilities as when you look up arrogant in google, that is what google defines as arrogant. He met the conditions for confident and failed them for cocky, at least in my opinion. Sep 12 '15 at 10:01

cocky in a way is a more arrogant expression than being confident

  • As your response stands, it looks more like a statement of opinion than like a reasoned answer. Please consider adding an explanatory argument (preferably with citations to one or more supporting reference works) to back up the conclusion that you express here.
    – Sven Yargs
    Sep 16 '15 at 0:40

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