What do you call a person that has a lot knowledge/information but decides to not share it?

Is it really the classic know-it-all or enlightened?

  • 3
    A know-it-all terribly wants to share knowledge, even what they don't have. Someone who is enlightened, well, deciding not to share their knowledge might be a consequence or side-effect of their enlightenment, but it certainly isn't a defining characteristic of enlightenment.
    – Mitch
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 3:06
  • I would call him/her mean !!!
    – Apoorva
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 10:31
  • Do you mean he won't share it at all? Or just that he won't share it for free? Or that he won't share it if you interrupt his other activities to ask him?
    – GEdgar
    Commented Feb 28, 2013 at 15:14

6 Answers 6


An obscurantist willfully withholds special knowledge from others.

There are two primary cultural connotations of this word, coming out of the European tradition. One is where the actor considers the knowledge too powerful or expensive for others, a form of elitism, expressed in both technical guilds and the Platonic philosopher king/tyrant who 'knows better'.

The other form is in making ones words hard to understand, either to hide emptiness or vagueness, a complaint against some philosophers (Hegel, Wittgenstein), or to hide simplicity behind technical language.

  • It seems to be a specifically political term, having to do with a policy toward the general public. An obscurant is defined as a "person who opposes intellectual advancement and political reform", and obscurantist means "the principles or practice of obscurants" and "a policy of withholding information from the public". A third definition is "a style in art and literature characterized by deliberate vagueness or obliqueness". This is all by way of thefreedictionary.com/obscurantist
    – MetaEd
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 23:57
  • @MetaEd: Yes, there are all sorts of cultural connotations to the word, which were not expected by the literal explanation by the OP. But it is still a word that captures what is intended by the OP.
    – Mitch
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 1:21
  • The connotations would very usefully be added to the answer.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 4:18
  • @MetaEd: added.
    – Mitch
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 13:38

The phrases "information miser" and "miser of knowledge" have both seen some use.

  • Hoarder is equally common in those two constructions, but I'm not sure "common" is really the right word here for these "expressions". None of them are really "set phrases" - they're just natural conjunctions of standard words that people will come up with when they need to, not really things that get remembered and passed on. Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 4:15
  • @FumbleFingers: Yes, I agree.
    – ruakh
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 12:59

A gatekeeper of information is someone who may have extensive knowledge and may choose not to share it, but it isn't a job requirement.

  • 1
    Gatekeeper lacks the desired negative connotation: if a gatekeeper withholds information from you, it's because he has determined (through some rational process) that it's better for you not to know it.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 18:18
  • Hence my extensive use of the word may. And as to whether it's better for you to know it or not, surely would depend on which side of the matter you were.
    – Sam
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 19:23

Maybe they're secretive or close-mouthed by nature.

Or perhaps they simply work for Apple.


A recluse comes to mind, especially with reference to a great mathematician Groetendick, who chose not to communicate with the world since so many years.


First, your title question is broken English. You do not “know” knowledge, you “have” knowledge (as you indeed correctly phrased it in the body of your post). You “know” THINGS. Knowing things is what constitutes HAVING knowledge.

Anywho, your title question reminds me of a recent other post in which the OP is asking about prejudicial questions:

Is there a name/term for phrasing something such that to disagree implicates yourself?

So, my point is that your question is of that nature, reeking of the presupposition that such withholding is improper. However, it may well be proper, from the concept of trade-secrets to the military concept of “need-to-know”. So, in other words, I do not agree that the term for such a person must necessarily be one having a “negative connotation”. As Flannery O’Connor once said (through one of her characters), you have to have certain things in order to understand certain things. Let’s see how YOU would behave if you somehow came upon a significant piece of information, say, a great stock pick. Information, to be useful, must often be kept secret and acted on in secret. Would you blab the stock tip, or would you just discreetly make the stock purchase?

Anyway, “closed-mouth” (to echo Gnawme, slightly edited) or “holding his cards close to his vest” perhaps are non-prejudicial adjectives describing this phenomenon.

(Again, a “closely-held” company is a common phenomenon. If you ask them how they became so successful, they will of course brush you off with some platitude like “by hard work and good management”.)

  • 1
    Comments on the question should appear in comments on the question, rather than in a putative answer. Commented Feb 11, 2012 at 5:54

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