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Alternative forms[edit]


pseudo- (false, fake) +‎ intellectual


pseudointellectual (plural pseudointellectuals)

  1. A person who claims proficiency in scholarly or artistic activities while lacking in-depth knowledge or critical understanding.
  2. A person who pretends to be of greater intelligence than they actually are.
    • 2002 September 3, Cyber Cypher, “The sign of pseudo-intellectual”, in alt.usage.english[1] (Usenet), message-ID <Xns927E5A0D9A8C1ccdenews@>:
      The telltale sign of a pseudo intellectual is the superficial sprinkling and misuse of terms like "paradigm shift" and name dropping

Usage notes[edit]

Usage is fraught, and pseudointellectual may be used as a general term of abuse for intellectuals one dislikes or disagrees with. Nevertheless, in more careful use a rather clear distinction is drawn:[1] a pseudointellectual is someone dishonestly or insincerely using the language, style, or topics of an intellectual, but who lacks the goals, morals, or ability of a “genuine” intellectual. It is someone who acts pretentiously and wishes to win an argument or impress, rather than modestly trying to find the truth – a focus on surface and rhetoric over content. These often involve a superficial understanding of a subject and condescension to the audience, as well as possible self-delusion (not being consciously dishonest, but rather sincerely thinking oneself to be behaving as a genuine intellectual despite one's incompetence).


See also[edit]


pseudointellectual (comparative more pseudointellectual, superlative most pseudointellectual)

  1. Pretentiously or insincerely intellectual.


  1. ^ See the Sydney Harris reference for detailed criteria.