In a word: supercilious

January 21, 2013|By John E. McIntyre | The Baltimore Sun

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:


The handy British expression toffee-nosed, for "pretentiously superior" or "snobbish," is evocative but informal. For starchy occasions you may want to use supercilious (pronounced soo-per-SIL-e-as). A supercilious person displays that he thinks himself superior to others, is disdainful, contemptuous, haughty, or scornful.

He raises his eyebrow at you if you presume to address him. The word combines the Latin super, "above" and cilium, "eyelid." The raised eyebrows of the haughty have been on display for millennia.

Example: From Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre: "Blanche Ingram, after having repelled, by supercilious taciturnity, some efforts of Mrs Dent and Mrs Eshton to draw her into conversation, had first murmured over some sentimental tunes and airs on the piano, and then, having fetched a novel from the library, had flung herself in haughty listlessness on a sofa and prepared to beguile, by the spell of fiction, the tedious hours of absence.

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