I'm looking for a word that means authoritative source of knowledge.

The word would preferably be a noun and could refer to a group of people or a collection of knowledge. Additionally it'd be strongly preferred if the word would not be a derivative of encyclopedia.

  • 5
    I think the word you are looking for is "@FumbleFingers" :-)
    – Jay
    Mar 16, 2012 at 16:23
  • Not an answer, but contrast with credible: merriam-webster.com/dictionary/credible
    – MrGomez
    Mar 16, 2012 at 20:40
  • An Expert is called to testify due to their authoritative source of knowledge.
    – Word guru
    Dec 16, 2012 at 15:05
  • I was looking for a word similar to the Question, and ended up using the word Almanac
    – elzaer
    Apr 16, 2014 at 1:30
  • Not a good choice. An almanac is "An annual calendar containing important dates and statistical information such as astronomical data and tide tables." While an almanac might be authoritative (or it might not), not all authorities are almanacs. oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/almanac
    – A E
    Oct 23, 2014 at 20:02

6 Answers 6


You could simply call it an authority, and that could stand for a human guru or a tome.

  • I think "authority" is pretty much the standard term for what you're describing. Some of the other answers herer might be more appropriate in specific contexts.
    – Jay
    Mar 16, 2012 at 16:26

My choice would be cornbread ninja's, but s/he beat me to it. Authority:

5. an accepted source of information, advice, etc.
7. an expert on a subject: He is an authority on baseball.

I like the word pundit, not least because it's a coveted Stack Exchange badge. Other words for learned and authoritative people could be guru, savant, or sage.

There's also cognoscenti:

plural noun, singular -te
persons who have superior knowledge and understanding of a particular field, especially in the fine arts, literature, and world of fashion.

  • 2
    Similarly, "guru".
    – Jay
    Mar 16, 2012 at 16:30
  • 2
    I thought of savant, too.
    – Daniel
    Mar 16, 2012 at 16:31
  • 1
    I would not go with pundit, as in the U.S. the sense of "commentator" prevails— and with it, the somewhat negative image of the "talking heads" on television news networks who deliver only those facts which service their opinions.
    – choster
    Mar 16, 2012 at 17:47

The canon is the collective term for those authorities which are indisputable (originally a religious term, but now general). So a book may be canonical. I don't think either should be applied to people, though, to avoid confusion.

  • True, though I think it's mostly limited to religious and literary contexts. i.e. you can talk about "the Christian canon" or the "Hindu canon", and you can talk about "the Star Trek canon". But I don't think I've ever heard someone refer to "the wood-working canon" or "the particle physics canon".
    – Jay
    Mar 16, 2012 at 16:30
  • 1
    @Jay I refer to "canonical data sets" all the time, to mean the set of data that we know to be trusted, true, clean, reliable, and the source by which other sets of data are modified to become so. I also use it for other situations in technology where I mean to connote "the approved and proper set".
    – ErikE
    Apr 19, 2012 at 19:47
  • @ErikE Yes, it's used in IT in general to refer to an authoritative source. In IT it can also mean the "standard" or "approved" something, like "canonical date format". As an IT person myself, I'm not sure how I skipped that. I'm not aware of it having similar meaning in other fields -- "a canonical list of elementary particles" ?
    – Jay
    Apr 20, 2012 at 17:19
  • @Jay The elementary particle list is short and is closed--there aren't really multiple sources telling us different things about it that may or may not be true. If there were, then perhaps it would make more sense. Also note that music can be a canon, meaning a melody is repeated at an interval after a certain period of time. Most people know of canon in D by Pachelbel...
    – ErikE
    Apr 22, 2012 at 22:33
  • @ErikE This page, enotes.com/topic/List_of_particles, lists dozens of subatomic particles, including many classed as "hypothetical", so I don't think it's really valid to say that the list is "short and closed". Of course that would be a reason to NOT refer to a canonical list, at least in the present tense. But in any case, my point wasn't to question whether physicists talk specifically about a "canonical list of subatomic particles", but rather whether they talk about ANYTHING being "canonical". I don't know. (continued)
    – Jay
    Apr 23, 2012 at 15:04


One who is experienced or knowledgeable

More so than "expert," this has the connotation of someone who actively concerns themselves with the subject.

  • Please follow the community guidelines on citations. However, answers which merely copy others' work -- even if correctly referenced -- may be removed. Please add some original editorial comment on your chosen word. (Previous, older, answers may not have had the current guidelines to follow, but they are no longer necessarily a good model.)
    – Andrew Leach
    Aug 15, 2017 at 20:09


a person or thing regarded as an infallible authority or guide on something

[p.305, The Oxford Dictionary of Difficult Words, edited by Archie Hobson]

  • 1
    Hi Mike, welcome to EL&U. Please note, the system has flagged your answer for deletion as "low-quality because of its length and content." An answer on this site is expected to be authoritative, detailed, and explain why it is correct. I suggest you edit your answer - for example, noting the word's etymology or giving some examples of usage. For further guidance, see How to Answer and take the EL&U Tour :-) Dec 25, 2018 at 21:25
  • 1
    PS I think oracle is a useful addition, so I've edited your answer to add the source I found for your definition. Mike, it's essential that you cite the source of any words you use that aren't your own. Not only does that add authority to your answer, it also means you're acknowledging the original author for their effort/research, and avoids any suggestion of plagiarism. Dec 25, 2018 at 21:30

It would depend on how you want to use the word. The first thing that popped into my mind was mentor.

  • A mentor is a sponsor, which is somewhat different from an "authoritative source." Also, we'd likely to rely on something more substantial than whatever pops into your mind. A reference that explains the reason for the popping would help. BTW, I'm not the downvoter.
    – deadrat
    Sep 1, 2015 at 8:32

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