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From Late Latin sciolus, diminutive of Latin scius (knowing), from sciō (I know) +‎ -ist. It first appears in English at the beginning of the 17th century.



sciolist (plural sciolists)

  1. One who exhibits only superficial knowledge; a self-proclaimed expert with little real understanding.
    • 1808, E[dmund] B[urke], A Treatise on the First Principles of Christianity, in which all Difficulties Stated by Ancient and Modern Sceptics, are Dispassionately Discussed, Halifax, Nova Scotia: Printed by John Howe and Son, OCLC 869235756, page 207:
      Men of true ſcience modestly admit the truth on the authority of the divine word; the ſciolist in imitation of the peasant, whoſe obſtinacy is the natural reſult of pride, and ignorance, will not believe if he does not comprehend.
    • Alfred Marshall (1885) The Present Position of Economics: Among the bad results of the narrowness of the work of English economists early in the century perhaps the most unfortunate was the opportunity which it gave to sciolists to quote and misapply economic dogmas.
    • 1893, Arthur Symons, “The Decadent Movement in Literature”, in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, volume 87, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers, OCLC 1641392, page 863:
      But M. [Édouard] Dujardin is a poet; "vers libres" in the hands of a sciolist are the most intolerably easy and annoying of poetical exercises.
    • 1907, Religious Education Association, The Materials of Religious Education: Being the Principal Papers Present at, and the Proceedings of the Fourth General Convention of the Religious Education Association, Rochester, New York, February 5–7, 1907 [Proceedings of the Annual Convention; 4th], Chicago, Ill.: Executive Office of the Association, OCLC 31342682:
      And I think I can divine two classes of agitators from whom we may apprehend danger. I name them together as the sciolists and the socialists. The sciolist is dangerous in politics, as elsewhere, because his knowledge is imperfect and superficial and his conceit is apt to be in proportion to his ignorance.
    • 1963, Federal Assembly of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Debates of the Federal Assembly, volume 19, Salisbury: Printed by the Parliamentary Printers, OCLC 40211007, page 1887:
      Sir, I can only say I believe that he is a sciolist. Sciolist is an odd word. I am sure you know what it means, Mr. Speaker, but for those who do not, it means a person who believes he knows in fact more than he does.
    • 2003, Roy Porter, Flesh in the Age of Reason, London, New York, N.Y.: Allen Lane, →ISBN, page 290:
      Walter is [] a dupe to the half-baked speculations of every sciolist from [René] Descartes down to ‘Coglionissimo Borri’, and a pack of other dunces.


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