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I’m looking for an adjective to describe, for example, someone who shows disdain for elitism or fine things. Google only gives examples that have positive or neutral connotations.

EDIT: I've accept plebian since it seems to satisfy most of my criteria, although it doesn't imply a disdain for elitism.

I've noticed a lot of submitted words imply simplicity or dullness, but that's not necessarily what I'm going for.

I'd also be interested in learning a word, even if it's not an antonym, that means something like: "to show disdain or contempt for elitism or pretentiousness." Ideally it would have a negative connotation but that is not a necessary constraint.

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  • 4
    Hm, elitism is negative, so you're looking for a negative of a negative? Apr 13, 2023 at 1:20
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    What are the positive-connotation adjectives you have found that are antonyms of elitist? Apr 13, 2023 at 2:33
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    If you refer to political domain, the antonym of "elitist" is populist (claiming to care about the interests and opinions of ordinary people rather than those of a small group).
    – Graffito
    Apr 13, 2023 at 12:10
  • 1
    It's not what you are looking for, but if that someone is known to many people (because they are an entrepreneur or politician or some other celebrity), an anti-elite stance necessarily carries a measure of bigotry because they are part of the elite they pretend to have disdain for. A good example is Trump who promises top drain the Washington swamp and enact policies to help the average Joe but instead does about the opposite. Takes one to know one. Apr 14, 2023 at 15:42
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    Note that anti-elitism can be its own form of elitism, if it's meant to denigrate whatever group is considered "elite." The true opposite of elitism is egalitarianism.
    – Caleb
    Apr 14, 2023 at 20:20

14 Answers 14

19

You might be looking for philistine - definition 2a, in particular:

2a : a person who is guided by materialism and is usually disdainful of intellectual or artistic values

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  • Isn't this a racially discriminating word?
    – Ubi.B
    Apr 13, 2023 at 11:15
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    Not according to the dictionary definition. Apr 13, 2023 at 11:20
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    @Ubi.B the Philistines as an ethnic group haven't existed for thousands of years
    – MJD
    Apr 13, 2023 at 12:25
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A somewhat slang term is "inverted snob".

a person who makes it known that they do not like things related to high social position but approve of things related to low social position

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/inverted-snob

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    I've mostly heard "inverse snobbery". "Inverted snob", "inverted snobbery", or "inverse snob" all sound weird to me
    – Tristan
    Apr 13, 2023 at 10:14
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    In BrE, "inverted" is the term I've heard; not heard "inverse" used.
    – TripeHound
    Apr 13, 2023 at 13:43
  • reverse snobbery Apr 15, 2023 at 2:48
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Given the following definition of elitism from Cambridge Dictionary, emphasising that something is for only a small number of "special" people, I think the opposite could be considered to be populism which is focused on "ordinary people" and not a small or select group.

Elitism

the belief that some things are only for a few people who have special qualities or abilities

Populism

political ideas and activities that are intended to get the support of ordinary people by giving them what they want:

Defintined by dictionary.com:

Populism

3. representation or extolling of the common person, the working class, the underdog, etc

Populism does entail a disdain for elites as you requested; there is certainly a negative connotation to both, which my reading of your question is also what you were requesting.

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  • I don't think the dictionary entry for elitism comes even close to how elitism is actually used in most cases (its actual meaning in those contexts). Something related to social envy may be closer. Apr 14, 2023 at 20:42
  • Hey Peter, I'm not quite sure what you mean but I am intrigued. How is elitism used in your opinion and/or how does it differ from the dictionary definitions? Perhaps I'm misunderstanding but social envy seems to be a critique of populists / anti-elitists
    – sat0ri
    Apr 16, 2023 at 13:09
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To add one more option because I feel like the connotation of plebeian is negative in a different way where the "elite" is looking down on people. How about populist? Here, I'd argue the connotation is the appeal to the "masses" often using anti-elite rhetoric and/or deception.

I also firmly disagree with some of the views stated by others that question how you can ask for a negative of a negative or how an antonym can have a positive or negative connotation. Synonyms exist (sort-of, albeit almost never in the strong sense of the word) and an antonym of something can be from a whole group or strongly related but subtly different concepts. And the one that is an opposite of elitist while also carrying a negative connotation is the one the OP asked for.

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    Jinx! We must have commented at the same time
    – sat0ri
    Apr 16, 2023 at 13:32
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    @sat0ri Yes! Although you broke it down more. Apr 16, 2023 at 22:26
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    Well naturally I applaud your discernment and agree with your post!
    – sat0ri
    Apr 17, 2023 at 12:02
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While it's not a single word, has crab mentality is an established phrase that might fit what you are looking for. It does assume a particular motivation that might or might not fit.

A way of thinking best described by the phrase "if I can't have it, neither can you."

Alternatively, anti-intellectual or anti-intellectualist.

indifferent or hostile to cultural or intellectual ideas

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In political terms the derogatory opposite of an elitist might be a mobocrat. See mobocrat. The adjective would be mobocratic.

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    Is that like a vulgarian?
    – tchrist
    Apr 13, 2023 at 2:44
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    Or more correctly, ochlocrat. Mixing words of different origin in a compound word is so vulgar.
    – Zeus
    Apr 14, 2023 at 0:40
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meat-and-potatoes (adjective, 2 of 3; M-W)

  1. of fundamental importance : BASIC
    also : concerned with or emphasizing the basic aspects of something
  2. UNPRETENTIOUS, SIMPLE
    a real meat-and-potatoes guy

basic (informal, derogatory; North American; OL&G)

having tastes, interests, or attitudes regarded as mainstream or conventional (typically used of a woman): "if your date orders vegetable tempura you know she is totally basic"

That's what they said. I have nothing against people or food in general.

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Try lowbrow (noun)

  1. One having uncultivated tastes.
  2. Someone or something of low education or culture.
  3. a person who is uninterested in intellectual pursuits
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    You should include the source of the definitions. Apr 13, 2023 at 20:37
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If you're looking for a negative term, this isn't it, but egalitarian means "characterized by, or supportive of, equality," or, to quote an actual dictionary, "believing that all people are equally important and should have the same rights and opportunities in life." Someone with egalitarian values would tend not to approve of elitism.

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    Where does that quote come from? You need to attribute it.
    – Laurel
    Apr 14, 2023 at 11:09
  • The quote marks were intended to set the phrase off as thing that can be substituted for egalitarian. Maybe I should have used italics there, too. (Just tried it and didn't prefer it.) But the actual source I found was a better definition than mine anyway, so good call. Apr 14, 2023 at 21:53
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My initial thought was to say uncouth

Defined by Oxford Dictionaries as:

lacking good manners, refinement, or grace.

"he is unwashed, uncouth, and drunk most of the time"

On reflection, I would also suggest using the noun reverse snob:

a person overly proud of being one of or sympathetic to the common people, and who denigrates or shuns those of superior ability, education, social standing, etc

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  • This can be adjectivised to Reverse Snobbish e.g. “it was a reverse snobbish newspaper”
    – Matt
    Apr 13, 2023 at 22:11
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It's a compound word, but you might like anti-intellectual. From Merriam Webster, it can be used as a noun or an adjective, and means:

: opposing or hostile to intellectuals or to an intellectual view or approach

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  • Elite ≠ intellectual.
    – Caleb
    Apr 14, 2023 at 20:12
  • @Caleb certainly, it's not an exact antonym, but in my opinion there's some overlap in possible cases where such a word might be used.
    – Sam Hanley
    Apr 15, 2023 at 17:58
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Also good is redneck or hick, but a more literal definition might be to call someone as having "No Class" But iconoclast might be also be correct, though it's modern use is less negative than was originally meant.

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  • "Redneck", "hick", and "no class" are all statements about the subject's lack of sophistication. But they don't necessarily speak to the subject's attitude towards others; it's possible to be a no-class redneck hick with a live-and-let-live attitude to fancier folk.
    – G_B
    Apr 15, 2023 at 6:41
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I’ve heard of “Cleetus” being used in this context, perhaps “Cleetist” would work?

Or perhaps “Doofus” and “Doofist”?

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    – Community Bot
    Apr 14, 2023 at 20:23
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    Can you add a definition for those words to explain why they're good fits? Apr 14, 2023 at 20:24
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One could refer to such as "communists", which has negative connotations today almost everywhere except a communist country. In England, they may use an old anglo-saxon term "churl". The correct term to use is, of course, based on the context.

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  • This is your first post and you should aim to give unbiased opinions. For example, communism is spoken about very negatively in Cuba and in many former communist countries in mid- to eastern Europe (eg, the Czech Republic) and of course historical examples where various forms of communism failed. Not only are you off-topic, but your generalisation is not just overly broad but demonstrably false.
    – sat0ri
    Apr 16, 2023 at 13:31

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