I'm trying to find a term which describes a person that, although he/she is constantly learning through life, is aware of his/her own ignorance the more the person knows.

Does it exist?

Example sentence:

"The truth is I thought that I was an expert in my field before starting at university, but as time passes I realize how little I know: I'm just a ______."

  • Mature? Self-aware? Human?
    – Juhasz
    Jan 3, 2019 at 15:50
  • 2
    Wise. There's a quote that's attributed to Socrates but has been disputed as actually coming from him: "The only true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing." Which is similar to: "The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know." I would have provided this as an answer, but it's not clear from your question exactly what you're looking for. What is the context and type of word you're looking for? Can you provide a sentence that would use it as well as some clarification? Jan 3, 2019 at 15:52
  • I'm looking for a word as in: "The truth is I thought that I was an expert in my field before start at university , but, as time passes I realize of the little I know, like an eternal apprentice, like an eternal newbie." That always-newbie term.
    – mindOf_L
    Jan 3, 2019 at 16:04
  • Hi EleazRs, note that there are strict rules for single-word-requests: "To ensure your question is not closed as off-topic, please be specific about the intended use of the word. You must include a sample sentence demonstrating how the word would be used." I've edited your post to include the sentence from your comment, but in future (I hope you do keep contributing here!) please do this yourself. For further guidance, see How to Ask, and make sure you also take the EL&U Tour :-) Jan 3, 2019 at 21:42

1 Answer 1


There is a term (and a concept) in Zen Buddhism known as shoshin (初心 in Japanese):

From Wikipedia:

Shoshin (初心) is a word from Zen Buddhism meaning "beginner's mind." It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would. The term is especially used in the study of Zen Buddhism and Japanese martial arts.

The phrase is also discussed in the book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki, a Zen teacher. Suzuki outlines the framework behind shoshin, noting "in the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few."[1]

The idea behind this is that if you harbor any preconceptions, you cannot learn further. What you know (or think you know) is the enemy of what you can learn.

You see practical examples of this when professional athletes have to "go back to basics" to improve their abilities (e.g., Tiger Woods changing his golf swing), even though they are already performing at enormously high levels. That's not to say that these athletes are consciously practicing shoshin, but that the effects are similar.

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