What do you call it when someone uses smart and intelligent but wrong statements to strengthen their argument?


4 Answers 4


Sophistry is

The use of clever but false arguments, especially with the intention of deceiving.

This seems to fit your definition.



A 'specious argument' is one that is empty, false or incorrect.



  • I had hoped to discourage another 'specious' answer to virtually the same question as in previous threads, by giving it in a 'comment' rather than as an 'answer'. Oct 6, 2019 at 16:11
  • Well, 'specious' is about the best word that I know, to answer this question. And seeing as how putting answers in comments doesn't result in... answered questions, what is the point of answering questions in comments? @Edwin Ashworth
    – Jelila
    Oct 6, 2019 at 16:16
  • Or, almost even worse... not answering them ✨
    – Jelila
    Oct 6, 2019 at 16:17
  • We're supposed to do housekeeping on ELU; the ultimate aim is to build up a repository of good analysis / practice, not be a Q and A service that generates so many duplications that the repository is useless as a reference. Oct 6, 2019 at 16:21
  • Well, is it a duplicate, or not? An answered duplicate is presumably better than an unanswered duplicate, in that it might actually... help somebody. Sorry I am not genius in housekeeping. 🙏🏻
    – Jelila
    Oct 6, 2019 at 16:31

All definitions are from Merriam-Webster. Words for this include shrewd

b : given to wily and artful ways or dealing

Or wily

: full of wiles : crafty

Or crafty

2a : adept in the use of subtlety and cunning

Or slick

1b : having surface plausibility or appeal : glossy

2a : characterized by subtlety or nimble wit : clever

Or cunning

1 : dexterous or crafty in the use of special resources (such as skill or knowledge) or in attaining an end

2 : characterized by wiliness and trickery

3 : prettily appealing : cute

4 : displaying keen insight

Or sly

2a : clever in concealing one's aims or ends

Or clever, in a context where it implies dishonesty

2 : marked by wit or ingenuity

Or manipulative, from manipulate

b : to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one's own advantage

Casuistry can mean either a form of theological reasoning about ethics, or, more often:

2 : specious argument : rationalization

This is sometimes applied to specific, extant religious orders, but that would be considered offensive. Apologetics is also sometimes used neutrally as theological terms, but in other contexts, has a negative connotation of a lawyerly defense of the indefensible. An apologia can mean this too, but sometimes has a positive connotation.


Sophistry, as found by DJClayworth, is what you're looking for, but I think bullsh*t is another acceptable answer.

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