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Learned borrowing from Latin sophista, also sophistes, itself borrowed from Ancient Greek σοφιστής (sophistḗs, pursuer of wisdom), from σοφίζομαι (sophízomai, to become wise).



sophist (plural sophists)

  1. One of a class of teachers of rhetoric, philosophy, and politics in ancient Greece.
  2. (figuratively) A teacher who uses plausible but fallacious reasoning.
  3. (figuratively, by extension) One who is captious, fallacious, or deceptive in argument.
    Synonym: logic chopper
  4. (dated) Alternative form of sophister (university student who has completed at least one year)

Usage notes[edit]

  • The meaning of "sophist" can vary depending on the time period to which one is referring. A sophist of the earliest period was a master in his art or craft who demonstrated (taught by example) his practical skill/learning in exchange for pay. Later sophists were providers of a well-rounded education intended to give pupils arete – "virtue, human excellence". By late antiquity, sophistḗs / sophistes tended to denote exclusively a skilled public speaker and/or teacher of rhetoric.[1][2]

Related terms[edit]



  1. ^ Dictionary of Philosophy, Dagobert D. Runes (ed.), Philosophical Library, 1962. See: "Sophists" by Max Fishler, p. 295.
  2. ^ "History of the name ‘Sophist’," Encyclopedia Britannica at