What word is appropriate for someone who tries to one up everything you say? For example:

Me: "You are a great friend"
Person: "Well, you are my best friend"

  • 2
    "that guy"...don't be that guy ;)
    – kekekela
    Oct 29, 2011 at 4:00
  • last word freak :-) Oct 29, 2011 at 10:38
  • Münchausen syndrome.
    – Unreason
    Nov 1, 2011 at 2:34
  • I've heard such a person described as a 'black cat' - because if you had a black cat, he'd have one that was blacker!
    – peterG
    Jan 27, 2014 at 18:10

5 Answers 5


As implied by the question itself, the standard term for the behaviour itself is one-upmanship.

Although alphadictionary.com is prepared to accept one-upman as a word in itself, to be honest I think they're in the minority on that one. In the absence of a convenient single-word derivation from the standard term, people usually just say it using more words - for example...

He always has to one-up everything you say. (lots of written instances in that link)

Most of us indulge in one-upmanship from time to time - it's part of normal social interaction. It only becomes tiresome with those few people who do it excessively. The most common single-word adjective I can think of for such a person is competitive. Which has lots of other shades of meaning, but when used in the context of how someone interacts socially, I think most people will know exactly what you mean.

user653's comment to @Barrie's answer reminds me of my favourite example from Dilbert...

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  • 2
    There's another word, which I can't for the moment remember. Perhaps someone else will come up with it. Oct 29, 2011 at 6:41
  • 8
    @Barrie: the one I'm thinking about is much better.
    – Mitch
    Oct 29, 2011 at 12:48
  • There's a great phrase in colloquial usage around the Humber; "If you've got a dog then he's got a blacker 'un!". "'Un" is often replaced with an epithet implying illegitimacy...
    – Mike C
    Mar 15, 2017 at 10:01
  • The OP is describing something more like a flatterer. One-upmanship is more about various seemingly trifling ploys and tricks, (without actual cheating), to win some game or game-like scenario. At its worst, one-upmanship is misapplied to scenarios better left ungamed.
    – agc
    Jun 18, 2018 at 2:10

I've remembered the word I was trying to think of earlier. It's topper, although it's not in the OED as such.

  • 1
    The Dilbert cartoon occasionally features a character by that name exhibiting this trait. "That's nothing!" he will say, before out-doing the main character, often implausibly. Oct 30, 2011 at 21:50

It's not exact by any stretch, but show-off could work.

  • It's not showing off. It's just constantly attempting to out-do others.
    – Urbycoz
    Nov 1, 2011 at 13:56

Along the lines of @Barrie, in our family someone exhibiting this trait would be called a story-topper. Whether this is a commonly used term I have no idea, but it should be!


“academic” (as a noun) could be used, given that one-upmanship is endemic to academia.

Me: “You are a great friend.”

Person: “Well, you’re my best friend.”

Me: “Oh, don’t be an academic.”

(or: Me: “Oh, don’t play the academic.”)

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