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pseudo- ‎(false, fake) +‎ intellectual


pseudointellectual ‎(plural pseudointellectuals)

  1. A person who affects proficiency in scholarly and artistic pursuits whilst lacking any in-depth knowledge or critical understanding of such topics.
  2. A person who pretends to be of greater intelligence than he or she in fact is.
    • 2002 September 3, Cyber Cypher, “The sign of pseudo-intellectual”, alt.usage.english, Usenet:
      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. Nonsense.


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