How do you call/insult someone who doesn't know anything (meaning not the simplest/basic or obvious things)?

Context: I need it in a dialog of the following form:

A: How does <very simple/obvious thing> work?
B: It works like <explanation>. <Insult>.

Searching various dictionaries I found already the following words:

  • silly
  • stupid
  • idiot
  • moron

But I have the feeling (as a non-native speaker) that they don't quite nail it and also I feel that the first two are quite weak insults. (Please correct me, if this impression is wrong.)

I would be happy if a single (short) word exists, but also longer words or phrases are welcome. Most important to me is that the insult/swear word is authentic (a native speaker would actually use it). And: the stronger the insult the better (for my specific project).


(OMG! I didn't imagine this topic would get so much attention!)

As some requested more context, I will try to summarize without revealing to much content here.

I'm writing a comic strip where there will appear two digital assistants. Both are assumed to be able answer a specific question, but one fails, leading to the other one insulting it.

So it's basically about missing knowledge/information.

  • 1
    It should be globally understandable so assume (basic) American or British English. – dosenfant Mar 8 '19 at 9:30
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    Sarcasm is your friend, Einstein. – Phil Sweet Mar 8 '19 at 11:40
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    There's only one right answer and it is "Jon Snow". – Arvindh Mani Mar 8 '19 at 15:19
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    Take a look at twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/746272130992644096 for insipration – Pete Kirkham Mar 8 '19 at 17:23
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    I VTC'd on the basis of Unclear What You Are Asking, because of the lack of context. Is this for a story or book? Is the presumably stupid person really stupid, or maybe lazy, or perpetually walking around in a dream, or dyslexic, or, say, extremely mechanically inept while being a genius in some abstruse theoretical field? Is this for an "insult contest" that is being done in fun? – ab2 Mar 9 '19 at 0:19

17 Answers 17


It is not the short word you are looking for, but ignoramus means “a stupid or ignorant person.” It’s a bit old-fashioned sounding and underused.

  • I actually have used this as an insult. Even ignoramuses get that it is an insult. – James McLeod Mar 9 '19 at 19:34

I'm partial to dipshit, which is a common slang word.

a stupid or incompetent person

An example of this:

A) Ugh, I don't know why I have such a bad headache.

B) That's because you drank so much last night that you passed out, dipshit.

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    But I think that's not quite the meaning the OP is looking for. Otherwise quite intelligent people - especially college students - can be prone to drinking too much and doing stupid things before passing out. – jamesqf Mar 9 '19 at 0:47
  • @jamesqf I was just using that example as someone asking a stupid question, like "Why do I have a headache?". Could also be used for many things like, "A: Ugh, I cant get this item OPEN! -- B: Why dont you try tearing it where it says 'rip along the dotted line', dipshit." – Sensoray Mar 10 '19 at 13:00
  • I would not generally associate dipshit with intelligence – it’s just more or less synonymous with asshole to me. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 10 '19 at 14:43
  • Perhaps you've been using it wrong then? Bc going by the dictionary definition, it means a stupid person and that's how I've always used it too. "Why can't i microwave my leftovers?" "Because it's wrapped in foil. It'll catch on fire, dipshit" – Sensoray Mar 10 '19 at 17:22


It's a colloquialism, possibly specific to the UK, but it's meaning would be unambiguous to native English speaker. Functionally equivalent to fucking halfwit, but with a brevity and rhythm that makes it appealing to the native ear.

You could also consider "dickwit", but the (usually amusing) plosive "d" sounds doesn't work so well with the fricative "w" sound.

  • Fuckwit is awesome, although very rude and largely British. Asshat is another good choice. I think that's an "Americanism" however. – Duncan C Mar 8 '19 at 16:02
  • As an American, "Fuckwit" is not unfamiliar to me – user70585 Mar 9 '19 at 2:02

the stronger the insult the better

"you ignorant f*ck" is about as strong as they come. I can't think of a worse.

Don't say it to anyone who is bigger than you or is holding a weapon!

Definitely don't say it if you care about your reputation as someone of good standing.

  • I like the "ignorant" part, but would be glad if there was a more subtle term than f*** :) – dosenfant Mar 8 '19 at 9:32
  • 'ignorant fool' -If the person tried but failed because of glaring gaps in knowledge; 'f*ck' probably does not translate well in the US, as there is quite a gradient between the meanings in Europe vs USA – loonquawl Mar 8 '19 at 14:33
  • correction: do not say it to anyone having a weapon. Definitely do not insult anyone in the US, unless you are on very good terms with them and are sure they will not shoot in response. – Artem Mar 8 '19 at 20:01
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    As an American, I can confirm that "ignorant f***" means exactly the same thing. If you're looking for something without profanity, but still slightly vulgar, I hear "twat" is usually a good substitute. – Anoplexian Mar 8 '19 at 21:50

The word imbecile is a good one. I think originally it's the name of a type of very severe intellectual disability, but nowadays it has become a word people use to insult someone who they think are incredibly stupid because they're showing the inability to understand even the simplest of things. Here's how the Cambridge Dictionary defines this word:

person who behaves in an extremely stupid way

Example sentence:

What an imbecile that boy is!

Your sentence:

A: How exactly does it work?
B: It works like this, you imbecile!


Since you've asked for a strong insult, retard fits the bill.

(offensive, vulgar) A stupid person, or one who is slow to learn.

It acquired this sense via the euphemism treadmill, having once been a neutral term to describe someone who would once have been called an idiot or moron in a clinical context, but is now considered more offensive than either of those.

Exercise caution, because it's a highly politically incorrect term. Even if you're writing character dialogue, it won't only be the addressed character that takes offence, but a significant part of the audience as well.

  • Would "retard" also fit when the person in question is not assumed to be stupid/dumb in general and might also not be a slow learner, but just simply lacks a lot of information? – dosenfant Mar 8 '19 at 9:26
  • Like any colloquial insult, there aren't any hard rules on using it (other than "don't use it if you don't want to offend someone"). A lot of the time it's used to insult stupid behaviour, or a glaring gap in knowledge, rather than a person's inherent stupidity. – jsheeran Mar 8 '19 at 9:28
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    "Retard" is now considered not PC (politically correct) because it insults those who are mentally retarded as a medical condition. So much so that "mentally retarded" is now falling out of use. Strong insults don't tend to be very PC, but it's still worth mentioning. – Duncan C Mar 8 '19 at 15:59
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    @DuncanC What's interesting to me is that 'idiot', 'moron', 'imbecile', and 'cretin' have similar origins but don't carry this kind of baggage. – JimmyJames Mar 8 '19 at 16:17
  • And in British English, fcktard goes with fckwit – Owain Mar 9 '19 at 20:55

How do you call/insult someone who doesn't know anything (meaning not the simplest/basic or obvious things)?

There are various techniques one might employ for insults.

Something short and simple, not too offensive sounding at first, but quite insulting:

  • dimwit noun dim·​wit | \ ˈdim-ˌwit : a stupid or mentally slow person

    That page contains a wonderful list of synonyms:

    "airhead, birdbrain, blockhead, bonehead, bubblehead, chowderhead, chucklehead, clodpoll (or clodpole), clot [British], cluck, clunk, cretin, cuddy (or cuddie) [British dialect], deadhead, dim bulb [slang], dip, dodo, dolt, donkey, doofus [slang], dope, dork [slang], dullard, dum-dum, dumbbell, dumbhead, dummkopf, dummy, dunce, dunderhead, fathead, gander, golem, goof, goon, half-wit, hammerhead, hardhead, idiot, ignoramus, imbecile, jackass, know-nothing, knucklehead, lamebrain, loggerhead [chiefly dialect], loon, lump, lunkhead, meathead, mome [archaic], moron, mug [chiefly British], mutt, natural, nimrod [slang], nincompoop, ninny, ninnyhammer, nit [chiefly British], nitwit, noddy, noodle, numskull (or numbskull), oaf, pinhead, prat [British], ratbag [chiefly Australian], saphead, schlub (also shlub) [slang], schnook [slang], simpleton, stock, stupe, stupid, thickhead, turkey, woodenhead, yahoo, yo-yo".

    Saying someone is a dimwit (if there's their action supporting your comment) can be a fair criticism and could be acceptable for use in formal situations such as during a meeting; but you must then be careful that your comment is well deserved.

Something more complicated and vulgar, a personal attack and untrue:

  • excrement noun ex·​cre·​ment | \ ˈek-skrə-mənt : waste matter discharged from the body

    You can say that "they are excrement" (or use the simpler four letter word), you can say that "their ideas are excrement", or you can say that "they have excrement for brains".

    The first example is unclear, inviting further discussion, allowing you to launch a second punch.

    The second example is to the point, but clearly an exaggeration.

    The third example is clearly an exaggeration and untrue, but what you mean is clear; to a native English speaker.

Context: I need it in a dialog of the following form:

A: How does <very simple/obvious thing> work?

  1. B: It works like <explanation>, dimwit.
  2. B: It works like <explanation>, sh*t for brains.

The first example has the advantage that you can substitute most of the synonyms in that list, mix it up, and leave third party listeners in suspense over what witty (pithy) insult you will dish out next; if others laugh or applaud that deepens the hurt of the insult.

It can horribly backfire if you are the one whom is wrong, or your usage is too strong for the situation; reserve the best insults for the truly worthy.

  • +1 "dolt" is one of my favorites for this purpose – Phlarx Mar 8 '19 at 20:53
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    +1 for "sh*t for brains". – jxh Mar 9 '19 at 2:14
  • @jxh I’d agree with your +1 if it weren’t for the fact that my dad keeps calling me that, so I’ve decided it’s a super-positive expression that means ‘awesome’. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 10 '19 at 14:46

Going along with the “you can say absolutely anything as long as it’s in quotes” mantra:

the stronger the insult the better

I’m not 100% versed of insults used by English-speaking countries other than the U.S., but the “stronger” titles for people who are a) incompetent, b) lacking knowledge, or c) ignorant oftentimes use the word “fuck” as an adverb (a word that should be avoided in most conversations due to its stigma), such as:

1) “idiot” -> “fucking idiot”

“Idiot” being a noun for somebody who is incompetent or not knowledgeable, as would “fool”

2) “retard” -> “fucking retard” -> “retarded fuck”

“retard” being a noun for somebody who is either physically or mentally handicapped, colloquially used as a euphemism for somebody who is remarkably a) unintelligent, b) incompetent, c) socially awkward. The socially awkward description stems from the fact that there are types of mental disabilities that could make one not as socially capable as a person without said disability.

“retarded fuck” meaning the insulted is a “fuck”, which usually doesn’t mean much in and of itself, but detailed with “retarded”. Keep in note that all of these are HIGHLY subjective, and insults are very dialectic. However, if you come to California, this is what you’ll probably hear.

3) “dumbass” -> “fucking dumbass”

“dumbass” being a compounding of “dumb” (similar to foolish) and “ass”, a euphemism for one’s rear or a donkey that has been tacked into the expression for good measure.

4) “dumbfuck” -> NOT “fucking dumbfuck”

“dumbass” being very similar to “dumbass”, with “dumb” meaning foolish, and a curse added on to the end. Do not use the adverb “fucking” before this word because it has already been added to the word itself. I consider this word to be one of the most concise insults of this list, along with “idiot”.

While those are the “strong”est I could think of, I do caution you to only use these with very close friends who are 100% casual with cursing and insulting like this. Misuse of a language is fast road to a hospital, and I implore you to use these with high discretion.

For things such as work encounters with coworkers, I would recommend some of the words you listed, such as “silly”:

A: How do put this square peg in the round hole?

B: You don’t put the square peg in the round hole, you put the round peg in the round hole and the square peg in the square hole, you silly.

Again, these expressions are highly dialectal, so you’ll hear different words or expressions in different cities and countries.

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    F**ktard is popular around these parts. – OrderAndChaos Mar 9 '19 at 2:02

In Britain we have the wonderful word numpty for which we are indebted to the Scots and which the Oxford Dictionary Online defines as

A stupid or ineffectual person.

with examples

‘confused numpties who have little idea of what they're talking about’

‘what a complete numpty!’

‘Then a numpty, walkie-talkie jobsworth in a parka sidles up and tells me to shove off.’

The nice thing about 'numpty' is that it is an insult but is not, unless preceded by an obscenity, offensive to people other than the target. It can also be used to confess to stupidity on one's own part "I forgot my wedding anniversary. What a numpty I am!"; to insult person you are talking to you "You double booked the Honeymoon Suite? You complete numpty!"; and to insult a third person or a whole group of third parties "Trust the Government? I wouldn't trust that set of numpties to organise a booze-up in a brewery!"


Here are some great options if you want to steer clear of profanity:

F**kwit can be converted to halfwit

A foolish or stupid person

Oxford Dictionaries

Dips**t can be converted to dimwit

A stupid or silly person.


dumbf**ck can be converted to dumbass or dumbarse

Stupid; brainless


Di**head becomes dolt or dunce


A stupid person



A person who is slow at learning; a stupid person.


Dips**t can also become dipstick

a stupid or inept person.


spastic could be viable.

Incompetent or uncoordinated.


Brits also have the option of wanker

A contemptible person (used as a general term of abuse).



"Stupid git" is good choice, although that's British.

Stronger insults often include profanity.

Often stronger insults question a person's intelligence more than their knowledge, so moron, cretin, etc.

Ignoramus is a really good choice. It's strong, and implies ignorance, but as a permanent condition.


Avoiding profanity, could use "Cretin".



You don't need to explicitly (and rudely) say "you know nothing" / "you are clueless". Equally good is is an insulting way of saying "this is obvious".

It works like <explanation>. Duh.

Definition (Merriam Webster)

  1. —used derisively to indicate that something just stated is all too obvious or self-evident

Many usage examples you'll find show a self-deprecating use (when you remember something you should have thought of earlier), or in response to something obvious said by someone else (as in MW's definition 2).

But it also works after stating something simple/basic/obvious that the other person apparently didn't know, as an insult.


I tried putting ignorant into a thesaurus and found a large number of words quite quickly.

You might sort these for preference by, for example deciding if you prefer unaware (extremes chosen by me, obtuse, thick, dense, moronic, imbecilic, shallow-brained, cretinous) over untrained (examples include unlearned, untaught, uncultivated, unenlightened, , unread, unschooled, , uninformed, nescient, benighted, superficial, inerudite, know-nothing, destitute of knowledge, lowbrow).

I personally prefer to use a word that I know (possibly newly discovered) that the other person might well misunderstand. So I'm offering a decision between whether you make yourself feel better at saying something and whether you really wish them to understand how know-nothing they are. Further, is this person exhibiting a lack of knowledge, or a lack of experience or, perhaps worst, an unwillingness to do any thinking at all, perhaps with no curiosity and an unwillingness to change?

In writing this I discover the word nescient (lacking knowledge, ignorant), new to me and perhaps appropriate for your needs.


In more recent years, a newer term has come to be somewhat widely used, headass.

A term used when one says something either obscured, unbelievable, or stupid

The insult is somewhat colloquial, but nonetheless passes the meaning on quite clearly and without ambiguity.

How does this work?

It works like this, you absolute headass

This can, as with most insults, be modified with the use of f•••ing or imbecilic for example.


This depends on the person's name. If you are fortunate, their name is Jane.

In that case, the most compelling answer begins with "Jane, you ignorant slut...".

Please note that it does help if your name happens to be Dan, and you're performing on a Saturday Night Live skit.

  • Snort. Sadly this is getting to be an old, obscure reference... – Duncan C Mar 9 '19 at 22:42


a jester or clown, especially one retained in a royal or noble household.

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