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From Late Latin sciolus (sciolist) + English -ism (suffix forming the names of tendencies of action, behaviour, condition, opinion, or state belonging to classes or groups of persons), based on sciolist.[1] Sciolus is a diminutive of Latin scius (cognizant, knowing) + -olus (variant of -ulus (suffix forming diminutives)); while scius is either from sciō (to be able to; to have practical knowledge, know (how to do something); to understand) (ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *skey- (to dissect; to split)), or is a back-formation from nescius (ignorant, unaware; unknowing) (from nesciō (to be ignorant, not know, not understand; to be unable), from ne- (prefix meaning ‘not’) + sciō).



sciolism (countable and uncountable, plural sciolisms) (dated, derogatory)

  1. (uncountable) The practice of expressing opinions on something which one knows only superficially or has little real understanding of; also, shallow or superficial knowledge; (countable) an instance of this.
    • [1795], “Remarks on Mrs. Macaulay Graham’s Letters on Education”, in Literary and Critical Remarks  [], London: [] B. Crosby, [], →OCLC, part II, pages 314–315:
      Indeed, I ſometimes incline to hope that infidelity is arrived at its higheſt pitch, and that ſcioliſm may advance into found knowledge and ſaving faith [] .
    • 1798 March, “Art. II.—Two Letters on the Conduct of Our Domestic Parties, with Regard to French Politics; including Observations on the Conduct of the Minority, in the Session of 1793. By the Late Right Hon. Edmund Burke. 8vo. 199 pp. 3s. Rivingtons, and Hatchard, Piccadilly. 1797. [book review]”, in British Critic, volume XI, London: [] F[rancis] and C[harles] Rivington, [], →OCLC, page 245:
      Here are painted, the miſchiefs of the multiplication of political Scioliſts, and the progreſs of political Scioliſm; the decay of profound knowledge, the perverſion of what we retain, and the decline of religion.
    • 1800, “Art. XV. Lettre, &c.”, in Anti-Jacobin Review, volume VI, London: [] T. Crowder, [], →OCLC, pages 526–527:
      [T]he crude paralogiſms of a vitiated metaphyſics, ſetting themſelves in oppoſition to the very poſtulates of all geometry, the truth of which we recognize by intuition, may pretend, that motion is a principle foreign to the nature of the ſubject; we are not to rank theſe ſcioliſms among the things which the rigour of the most exact reaſoning requires.
    • 1816, S[amuel] T[aylor] Coleridge, “[Appendix, Containing Comments and Essays.] Appendix D.”, in The Statesman’s Manual; or The Bible the Best Guide to Political Skill and Foresight: [], London: [] [S. Curtis] for Gale and Fenner, []; J. M. Richardson, []; and Hatchard, [], →OCLC, page xxxi:
      The contempt [] is not accidental, nor yet altogether owing to that epidemic of a proud ignorance occasioned by a diffused sciolism, which gave a sickly and hectic shewiness to the latter half of the last century.
    • 1823, C[harles] Wellbeloved, Three Letters  [], 2nd edition, York, Yorkshire: [] Thomas Wilson and Sons, [], →OCLC, page 11:
      And after all, should it be proved that Unitarian writers of the present generation are sciolists, it will not follow that their principles deserve the opprobrious name of sciolism.
    • 1838 November, “Art VIII.—Who are the True Conservatives?”, in The Quarterly Christian Spectator, volume X, number IV, New Haven, Conn.: [] Hezekiah Howe, [], →OCLC, page 608:
      There is no sciolism now which is more dangerous than that which is so very careful to inform us of its entire freedom from all that is superficial [] .
    • 1845, Joseph Jones, Aphoristical Instruction, London: Hamilton, Adams, and Co. W. Rowbottom, [], →OCLC, page 73:
      Sciolism knows every thing, talks of every thing, and cuts every Gordian knot with ease: but wise knowledge sees that the sphere of light is small; is humble and silent; and allows mysteries to be mysteries.
    • 1855, Charles Kingsley, Glaucus; or, The Wonders of the Shore, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: Macmillan & Co., →OCLC, page 44:
      [H]ow to counteract the tendency to shallow and conceited sciolism, engendered by hearing popular lectures on all manner of subjects, which can only be really learnt by stern methodic study; [] above all, how to develop the physical powers, without engendering brutality and coarseness,—are questions becoming daily more and more to be solved, in an age of enterprise, travel, and emigration, like the present.
    • 1859 March, John Henry Pestalozzi, “VIII. Evening Hour of a Hermit.”, in Henry Barnard, editor, The American Journal of Education, volume VI, number XVI, Hartford, Conn.: F. C. Brownell; London: Trübner & Co., [], →OCLC, page 172:
      Unsteady will be the progress of that man who, in the hurlyburly of his sciolisms, finds, to be sure, material for many words, but sacrifices to them the quietness of real wisdom.
    • 1939 January–March, William S. Knickerbocker, “Designs on Mr. Upton: A Rumination on Sciolism and Its Engagements with William Shakespeare”, in The Sewanee Review, volume XLVII, number 1, Sewanee, Tenn.: T. Hodgson for University of the South, →OCLC, section II, page 115:
      His sciolism will then proceed more positively to fit his discoveries in the plays to the antecedent construct of his candidate for the authorship.
    • 2003, Sara Delamont, “Organising the Necessary Work: The Question(s) of Method(s)”, in Feminist Sociology, London, Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, →ISBN, pages 70–71:
      One early definition of feminist research, which was often cited as a mantra was 'feminist research is by women, on women, for women.' [] I have called this mantra a sciolism because it was so superficial.

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  1. ^ sciolism, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, September 2021; “sciolism, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.