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sophister (plural sophisters)

  1. A sophist.
    • c. 1590, William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 2, Act V, Scene 1,[1]
      A subtle traitor needs no sophister.
    • 1612, Richard Hooker, A Learned Discourse of Iustification, Workes, and How the Foundation of Faith is Overthrowne, Oxford, p. 62,[2]
      [] I wil not be afraid to saie vnto a Pope or Cardinall in this plight, be of good comfort, we haue to doe with a mercifull God; rather to make the best of a little which we hold well, and not with a captious sophister, which gathereth the worst out of everie thing, wherein wee erre.
    • 1783, David Hume (ascribed), Essays on Suicide, and the Immortality of the Soul, London: M. Smith, Letter 114, p. 74,[3]
      The same sophisters make it a question whether life can ever be an evil? but when we consider the multitude of errors, torments, and vices, with which it abounds, one would rather be inclined to doubt whether it can ever be a blessing.
    • 1824, Walter Scott, Redgauntlet, Edinburgh: Archibald Constable & Co., Volume I, Letter 13, p. 295,[4]
      I remember when you were a boy you wished to make your fine new whip a present to old aunt Peggy, merely because she admired it; and now, with like unreflecting and unappropriate liberality, you would resign your beloved to a smoke-dried young sophister, who cares not one of the hairs which it is his occupation to split for all the daughters of Eve.
    • 1973, William D. Grampp, “Classical Economics and Its Moral Critics”, in History of Political Economy, volume 5 (1973), pages 359–374,
      Burke said the age of the economist was also the age of the sophister.
  2. (dated, Britain, US, universities) A student who is advanced beyond the first year of their residence.
    • 1851, Benjamin Homer Hall, College Words and Customs, Cambridge, Mass.: John Bartlett, p. 287,[5]
      In the older American colleges, the junior and senior classes were originally called Junior Sophisters and Senior Sophisters. The term is also used at Oxford and Dublin.

Derived terms[edit]

Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for sophister in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)