Printable Version
Pronunciation: sai-ê-list Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: Someone with superficial knowledge who pretends to be an expert on some subject.

Notes: The attitude itself is sciolism, and anyone who is possessed of it is sciolistic or sciolous. These adjectives pave the way for two adverbs, as someone who talks sciolistically or pontificates sciously. Look out for the silent C, as in the related word, science.

In Play: You will bump into two types of sciolists in your trek across life. You will meet real ones: "Television talk shows are a popular venue for sciolists of every ilk." Some, however, are real experts whose expertise we simply do not want to hear: "Writers, with few exceptions, think that all critics who do not praise their work are sciolists."

Word History: Today's word is a remake of Late Latin sciolus "a smatterer", a diminutive of Latin scius "knowing", from scire "to know". This word is akin to Latin scientia "knowledge, skill, expertise", from the same root. The original root skei- meant "to split, separate". It kept that meaning in Latin scindere and Greek schizein "to split". The sense of separation remained in the Germanic languages and turns up in words like English shed. The connection with knowledge is the ability to split and separate ideas, that is, to analyze things. (Today's word is the result of two separate requests from G. N. Bludworth and Apoclima of the Alpha Agora, both genuine, not sciolistic, logophiles.)

Dr. Goodword,

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