I've been looking for a pair or words that mean that a person doesn't have all the details and doesn't realize that they do not, and its opposite counter part.

I was thinking the word "partialist" would cover the first thing, but this turned out to be a DSM-IV manual sexual disorder, despite it sounding right.

For example, "He was a partialist, he didn't know what he didn't know."

I thought that the opposite would be a "comprehensivalist" or someone who knows they have all the details.

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    All humans fall into the former category and none into the latter. So this is like looking for a dedicated word for, say, a person who doesn't have a skeleton and doesn't realize that, and a person who knows they do have a skeleton. These are no useful concepts to have dedicated words for, and so we don't. Also, in case you're not noticing, you've got yourself a false dichotomy. You have two boolean variables, which should get you a total of four categories, not two. What about the people who don't have a skeleton and do realize it? What about those who do have one but don't know it?
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 12:47
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    I'd simply say they are ill prepared.
    – WS2
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 13:44
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    @RegDwigнt: Judging by the unwarranted derision heaped on Donald Rumsfeld for trying to distinguish between "known unknowns" and "unknown unknowns", I'd say the average Joe has difficulty even grasping the concepts involved here, so the chances of us having special words for the different permutations seem remote. Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 13:45
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    The word for the first concept is adolescent. Mark Twain is reputed to have said When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.
    – bib
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 13:55
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    @leeand00: That surely implies a fifth category. By "things which we do not wish to acknowledge" I assume you mean there are questions we're "theoretically" capable of addressing, but which we suppress awareness of because we're worried we won't like the answer (though personally I think there's a certain "elegance" to 42 :). But Godel's Incompleteness Theorem tells us there are questions we only think we can answer (we don't really "know" the answer if we can't prove it; it's effectively a matter of blind faith). Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 16:31

2 Answers 2


The adjective "sophomoric" comes to mind to describe the first category. It means "conceited and overconfident of knowledge but poorly informed and immature."


The concept can be summed up as "ignorant of one's own ignorance." I think the word "ignoramus" is the one that serves, but its meaning has morphed in common usage to something more of a general insult than that specific meaning.

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