Printable Version
Pronunciation: su-pêr-si-li-ês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Haughty, disdainful, snootily snobbish, totally enveloped in hauteur.

Notes: We may, of course, use this adjective as an adverb so long as we add the regular adverbial suffix, -ly (superciliously). The noun for this word is also the standard superciliousness; however, if you prefer to be a bit supercilious yourself, you may use superciliosity. That should stand some hair on end.

In Play: Supercilious people put on airs and behave as super silly as 18th century European royalty: "Pierre is so supercilious that he won't dine in a restaurant whose waiters don't speak with a French accent." The supercilious person looks down his or her nose at people, places, and things they consider beneath their dignity: "Andre is either too supercilious to do menial tasks around the office or not smart enough to figure out how they are done."

Word History: Long ago it was noted that snooty people tend to raise their eyebrows a lot as part of the expression of condescension. It is this facial expression that led to the creation of today's Good Word. It was borrowed from Latin superciliosus "haughty, disdainful", a word borne of supercilium "eyebrow, pride". Supercilium, in its turn, is made up of super "over, above" + cilium "eyelid", the "over-eyelid". Cilium (plural cilia) comes from the verb celare "to cover, hide" and shares its origin with Greek kaluptô "to cover". The [k] in the original root became [h], as expected, in the Germanic languages and the [l] metathesized (switched places) with the vowel, resulting in an Old Germanic word hlid "eyelid". With the disappearance of the initial H, English and German were left with lid, which means only "eyelid" in German, but that plus a pot or jar covering in English. (We are so happy that Kathleen McCune of Sweden is not so supercilious as to ignore us when she happens across lovely Good Words like today's.)

Dr. Goodword,

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