What would you call a person who doesn't want to learn new things and even maybe thinks that this is unnecessary since he knows enough already? An ignorant person?

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    You might call such a person "ignorant", just as you might call him "silly", or "unwise". But suppose he really does know enough for his purposes? Are you qualified to say for sure he doesn't? You're applying a "value judgement". Do you want the answer to reflect that? So you want an insult? Jun 7, 2011 at 2:19
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    Yes, I'd like to collect an insulting name as well :)
    – Leo
    Jun 7, 2011 at 2:25
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    A politician? :) Jun 7, 2011 at 3:30
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    Also hidebound => "Unwilling or unable to change because of tradition or convention". Jun 7, 2011 at 10:53
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    OK ... when a mathematician gets a document from a crank showing a method to trisect an angle, and rejects it out of hand, it is true that the crank likely calls him one or more of those names...
    – GEdgar
    Oct 15, 2012 at 21:38

17 Answers 17


close-minded (also 'closed-minded')

has a primary definition of intolerant, also has the meaning of unreceptive to new ideas.

The euphemistic version of this is


The latter is a very common word lately to describe people whose thoughts are not reality or evidence based.

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    Isn't it spelled closed-minded? Jun 7, 2011 at 3:26
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    @Brennan: you could use logic (it's antonym is 'open-minded'), or use culture (googlevoting gives 4.7m for 'close', 2.4m for 'closed'), or use a dictionary (the ones I see online say 'close' is preferred with closed as a common alternative). Either sound fine to me.
    – Mitch
    Jun 7, 2011 at 3:44
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    @Mitch How does its autonym support the case for close-minded? In my mind, its autonym is describing the state of the mind, 'open'. In English, describing an open state can also be expressed with the word 'opened', but it's another syllable. The autonym of open-minded, assuming 'open' indicates the mind's state, would be closed-minded. You can have an open door, but you can't have a close door.
    – Jez
    Jun 7, 2011 at 8:07
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    @Mitch: If you have a closed mind (i.e. one that is shut), properly speaking you would be closed-minded. If you use the term "close-minded" then it sounds like you mean they are nearby. Please cite the dictionaries that show "close-minded" as an alternative, because I'm not seeing that anywhere. And @mplungian, an NGRAM here may not really be comparing the same usages.
    – Robusto
    Jun 7, 2011 at 9:28
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    @Kit, I think actually that this one is an exception since -minded (according to macmillan) is "used with some adjectives and adverbs to make adjectives describing the way someone thinks or their attitude to life" and from all other -minded entries: absent-, bloody-, broad-, close-, fair-, feeble-, high-, like-, narrow-, open-, right-, simple-, single-, small-, strong-, tough-, weak-, literal- only close- is not taken in the primary sense of the adjective (except for: close adj. 17 not willing to share information about yourself or your emotions) but in the primary sense of the verb.
    – Unreason
    Jun 7, 2011 at 14:16

a person who doesn't want to learn new things (and even maybe thinks that this is unnecessary since he knows enough already)

If you consider Mitch's close-minded a good answer then there are similar idioms that are possibly applicable, for example:

  • obstinate,
  • dogmatic,
  • narrow-minded,

None of these are specific to learning so you should use them in a clear context.

Now let me focus on a different perspective - desire to learn new things often stems from curiosity, so here is a list of some antonyms of curiosity

  • incurious
  • uninterested
  • uninquiring
  • uninquisitive
  • indifferent

Again none of these terms is specific only to a person who does not want to learn new things, but they all might be applicable and true of such a person.

Maybe if you combine some of the first sort and the second you might arrive to interesting expression applicable to your case; or you might want to think about why the person you are trying to describe does not want to learn new things and a better phrase or a word might present itself.

EDIT: Also, there is a third perspective, someone who is not studious is unstudious (synonyms: unscholary); both of which are not very common, but might just be a right word for your case.

Keep in mind that they do not imply "that they might even think it is unnecessary since they know enough already".

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    Narrow-minded was what I was originally thinking of but it didn't come as quickly as 'close-minded'. There's also parochial, and provincial in that direction.
    – Mitch
    Jun 7, 2011 at 14:53

One term I sometimes use is: Willfully ignorant (adjective). Willful ignorance (noun). Other variants are wilfully and wilful (although they are not found in my computer's dictionary, they can be found on Google).

That may or may not apply to your particular case, depending on what exactly you are after. For example, if it is clear that the person has ready available access to sources to learn something new, knows about it, but still just doesn't do it, and thus remains ignorant, I believe this term can be used.


I always call them Luddites if they're opposed to new technology and the knowledge needed to make use of it.

  • The Luddites were not opposed to knowledge needed to make use of new technology. On the contrary, they smashed machinery on the grounds that it was simple to operate and thus liable to endanger skilled labour. Jun 7, 2011 at 15:23
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    @Ian Mackinnon: I never said they were. But in my linguistic fraternity the term is commonly applied today to, for example, people who can't or won't learn how to use mobile phones, home computers, etc. That certainly doesn't mean we're accusing those people of smashing our equipment. The meaning of words can easily change that much over a couple of centuries. Jun 7, 2011 at 16:20
  • Understood. Though it is valuable to know the origins of words whose meanings have changed significantly, especially where there may be risks of ambiguity or a misguided sense of history. Jun 7, 2011 at 16:49
  • @Ian Mackinnon: Agreed. But I think in my case the allusion is to Luddites as opponents of progress, and in the kind of context we're talking about, progress steers very close to becoming a synonym of knowledge. So I see little risk of ambiguity - and I doubt many people I converse with wish to understand the sociological rationale behind Luddism any better than they do already! :-) Jun 7, 2011 at 17:17
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    @Hot Licks: Sharpened sticks at dawn then! I quite fancied giving my new positronic disintegrator ray-gun a whirl, but I assume even pistols would be too new-fangled for you! :) Mar 26, 2015 at 19:49

As well as the various good examples above, you could describe such a person as a "stick in the mud" (sometimes hypenated as "stick-in-the-mud"). This isn't an exact fit, but the basic meaning of "someone who is not open to change" has a strong connection to being unwilling to learn too.

(Aside: I find the first Wiktionary definition I linked to odd and unconvincing. You could infer that a stick-in-the-mud would be a party pooper, but it's not a synonym.)

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    Having written documents about issues with a staff member who actively resisted learning new things, I can report that "stick-in-the-mud" was exactly the word I used. Jun 7, 2011 at 13:55

I'll submit: "Stubborn", for the implication of being settled on ones opinion / knowledge, and unresponsive / unwilling to extend or change it.


Possibly an old dog, as in the idiom, You can't teach an old dog new tricks:

something that you say which means it is difficult to make someone change the way they do something when they have been doing it the same way for a long time: You're never going to teach your father at the age of 79 to use a computer. You can't teach an old dog new tricks, you know.

The Free Dictionary

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    Apart from when we're specifically mentioning their inability to learn new tricks, we don't generally think much about the cognitive receptivity of old dogs. When you say "You old dog!" it usually means the person has done something sly / wily / cunning / smart. A compliment, generally. Jun 7, 2011 at 2:44
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    @Fumble: True. But sometimes it can mean both, as in Good job, you old dog, you actually did learn a new trick!" Jun 7, 2011 at 3:04
  • Sigh. Clutching at straws, I feel! :) Jun 7, 2011 at 3:14
  • @Fumble: Got one straw. I'll quit clutching now :) Jun 7, 2011 at 11:29
  • Let's just have one straw each and leave it open as to who got the short one :) Jun 7, 2011 at 14:50

try philistine

A smug, ignorant, especially middle-class person who is regarded as being indifferent or antagonistic to artistic and cultural values.


A matter-of-fact, commonplace person; a man upon whom one can look down, as of culture inferior to one's own; one of “parochial” intellect; a satisfied person who is unaware of his own lack of culture.


Of or pertaining to or having the characteristics of Philistines in the modern social and literary sense; commonplace; dully matter-of-fact and satisfied; conventional and unimaginative.

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    I often consider myself to be a bit of a philistine as I have what many consider "common" tastes (e.g., I prefer Dr. Pepper over a fine wine and action movies over art house movies), but I also enjoy learning new things. I think there might be a significant overlap, but I wouldn't think that philistines would necessarily be against learning new things. Also, it's interesting to me to note the contradiction between your first and second definitions. In the first one, the philistine is smug (which I don't consider part of the definition), whereas in the second one they're inferior. Jun 7, 2011 at 12:46

"Know-it-all" may fit that description quite well.

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    Well, I'm looking for a word that emphasizes the "doesn't want to learn anything new" part.
    – Leo
    Jun 7, 2011 at 2:01
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    @Leo, but you propose "since he knows enough already" - for which "Know-it-all" or "Know-all" fit. I understand that it might have been just an illustration and not essential to definition, but on the other hand you might want to clarify your question.
    – Unreason
    Jun 7, 2011 at 10:26
  • @Unreason: That's why I suggested "know-it-all." Thanks for noticing that (+1)! Jun 7, 2011 at 16:33

Negligent (in studying, learning new things)

The person neglects the fact that he needs to learn new things.

Note that I have a very specific scenario in mind. I'm not sure if it applies to what the OP has in mind. This scenario is the following:

He works in the IT area and knows some technologies (e.g. programming languages) and uses them at work. He doesn't think that that he needs to know any of the new technologies that are coming out. However, in IT things change quite fast and his knowledge may soon be out-of-date due to the new technologies. He neglects that with the assumption that he simply doesn't need to learn anything new as if what he already knew was everything he needed to know for the rest of his career.

In the Comfort Zone

Example from Merriam-Webster:

I need to expand my comfort zone and try new things.


How about "unteachable"?

It's got some biblical connotations, i.e., "an unteachable spirit".

"Teachable": Capable of being taught; apt to learn; also, willing to receive instruction; docile. (http://machaut.uchicago.edu/?resource=Webster%27s&word=teachable&use1913=on)

An unwillingness to learn would be considered unteachable, I suppose.

(P.S. - I didn't want to post the hyperlink directly; I'm new here, so I'm not sure what etiquette applies. Googling the term obviously brings up a whole lot of answers.)

  • You may find this meta article helpful. It contains common abbreviations and links to the resources that are frequently used on this site. Thanks for not just copypasting. We like to hear why you thought this would be a good choice, as well as what you chose and what it means.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Jun 7, 2011 at 19:48

To help me focus and stay true to OP's question.

Someone who believes they know enough of everything there is to know. Someone who doesn't want to learn new things is also a person who doesn't listen and refuses to admit their knowledge could be expanded upon.

An ignorant person?

As I live in Italy there's is only one person I can think of who fits that description to a "t".

Silvio Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi

I am not being facetious. In Italy we have the expression: Berlusconiano and it is used to describe pretty much someone who believes they are irreprehensible. (You could translate it to "Berlusconian").

Failing that, the word arrogant I believe fits the criteria requested.

having or showing an exaggerated opinion of one's own importance, merit, ability, etc.; conceited; overbearingly proud; an arrogant teacher; an arrogant assumption.


I don't want to make this a political discussion, though I do think my answer proves a worthy interrogation of the political terms I allude to.

A 'conservative' is exactly a person who is philosophically averse to the new. Convservative cultures prefer existing norms over those newer behaviours that arise through the inherent change that exists in the world. Conversative politics infers an aversion to new ways of conducting business . . . the tried and true over the innovative. I think it's the perfect term that the poster is looking for.

  • Did you mean to say 'conservative'?
    – Leo
    Oct 15, 2012 at 23:51
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    :) I even meant to type it!
    – chad
    Oct 16, 2012 at 19:44

An unteachable person. An indocile


"Yahoo," as invented by Swift.

The Redneck Manifesto: How Hillbillies Hicks and White ... - Page 82 Jim Goad - 1998

in the despicable Yahoos, "who appear to be the most unteachable of all animals." Swift,

  • You know what Yahoos are, right?
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 26, 2015 at 17:21
  • Well, yes, but I used Swift's view of them :-) Mar 26, 2015 at 17:39

Smarty Pants is the term that comes to my mind. Though frequently childish it can also used (more in the UK) as a sarcastic term among adults.


I think you are asking for a kind of person that is not interested in external ideas or even in their own ideas—people that are not interested in anything or anyone, not even in themselves, and only live as they can. I could call those kind of people "suicide", cause the tools of humans are the knowledges and the information. If we don't have some knowledge, we are putting our existence at risk.

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