I am looking for an English word to describe a person who is very good at sounding intelligent and thoughtful without actually being intelligent and/or thoughtful.

The person I'm imagining speaks clearly, in well formed sentences and paragraphs, has a broad vocabulary and uses it well, and might be extremely knowledgeable. S/he uses these skills to make arguments that sound dazzlingly convincing but actually make no sense.

A contrived example: I ask you why the price of widgets has risen so much over the past decade. You present convincing evidence that the widget industry has always been monopolized, and then explain clearly and convincingly --- using both theory and historical examples --- why we should expect monopolies to charge high prices. But you've completely overlooked the fact that high prices are not the same thing as rising prices --- so that in fact all of your arguments are actually irrelevant to the question at hand.

There are two different possibilities:

A. You are being intentionally deceptive, hoping I won't realize that your arguments are irrelevant to the question (like a silver-tongued lawyer)


B. You yourself are unaware that your arguments are irrelevant to the question (because you are not nearly as smart as you sound).

I am primarily looking for a word that describes case B, though words to describe case A are also welcome, as are words that apply in both cases.

The developers of ChatGPT warn that the bot "sometimes writes plausible-sounding but incorrect or nonsensical answers". The word I am looking for would fit very well in this sentence: "Talking to ChatGPT can be a lot like talking to a _________."

  • 1
    Since you've tagged this as a single word request, you should include a sample sentence demonstrating how the word would be used. Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 20:19
  • @KillingTime: If the word is X, a sample sentence might be "Sometimes the output from ChatGPT sounds like it was written by an X --- it looks convincing on the surface until you realize it makes no sense at all." But I'm not sure that sample sentence adds anything to the description I've already given.
    – WillO
    Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 20:25
  • Related and possible duplicate. :)
    – tchrist
    Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 20:55
  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on English Language & Usage Meta, or in English Language & Usage Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 22:53
  • Aren't there any suitable answers at the suggested duplicate? // Different people possess and display different kinds of intelligence. Autistic people are often singularly gifted in certain areas. And we all make mistakes. Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 14:27

2 Answers 2


Do these work?

Sophist: a person who reasons adroitly and speciously rather than soundly https://www.dictionary.com/browse/sophist

Pseudointellectual : a person exhibiting intellectual pretensions that have no basis in sound scholarship https://www.dictionary.com/browse/pseudointellectual

  • 1
    I have edited to distinguish between case A (where the speaker is being intentionally deceptive) and case B (where the speaker is unaware that he is making no sense). I think "sophist" is perfect for case A, but would really like a word for case B. (Perhaps "sophist" applies there as well according to some dictionaries, but to me, the word tends to connote case A.)
    – WillO
    Commented Jun 8, 2023 at 2:00

You could such a person a rhetorician — someone who uses . . .

rhetoric, n.1
1. a. The art of using language effectively so as to persuade or influence others, esp. the exploitation of figures of speech and other compositional techniques to this end; the study of principles and rules to be followed by a speaker or writer striving for eloquence, esp. as formulated by ancient Greek and Roman writers.
Source: Oxford English Dictionary (login required)

  • Thank you. I have edited to distinguish between Case A (where the person is intentionally deceptive) and Case B (where the person himself falsely believes he's being entirely logical. To me, the word "rhetorician" tends to connote Case A (as does the word "sophist", suggested in another answer, where I've left a comment very similar to this one). But I would really like a word that covers Case B.
    – WillO
    Commented Jun 8, 2023 at 2:02
  • 1
    It also seems to me that the word "rhetorician" can also apply to a person who does make perfect sense, but makes himself more convincing through rhetoric. I'd prefer a word that does not apply to speakers who are actually making sense.
    – WillO
    Commented Jun 8, 2023 at 2:06

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