Definition of supercilious
: coolly and patronizingly haughty reacted to their breach of etiquette with a supercilious smile
supercilious was our Word of the Day on 12/08/2007. Hear the podcast!
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Examples of supercilious in a Sentence
While Americans did congregate together at baseball games, … amusement parks, dance halls and arcades, tensions still roiled. The middle class may not have been as supercilious as the elites it replaced, but middle-class reformers were every bit as strident as those elites in condemning … working-class entertainments, and for the same reason: These entertainments constituted a challenge to the class's social control. —Neal Gabler, Life: The Movie, 1998
Cross' popular academic sleuth Kate Fansler returns, this time as a guest professor at the down-at-the-heels Schuyler Law School, where she has been asked to teach a course on literature and the law. Ardent feminist Kate soon finds that not only is Schuyler a bastion of intolerant, supercilious white males, but worse, any attempt by women or minorities to be heard is quickly quashed by the old-boy network. —Emily Melton, Booklist, 15 Dec. 1994
Jorgeson had a sharp tongue and was so supercilious in his remarks that I didn't know quite how seriously I should take this talk, but I enjoyed his humor and I did believe he had the sensibilities of an artist. —Thom Jones, New Yorker, 2 Dec. 1991
the supercilious art dealer rolled her eyes when we asked if she had anything for under $1,000
What is the Origin of supercilious?
Arrogant and disdainful types tend to raise an eyebrow at anything they consider beneath them. The original supercilious crowd must have shown that raised-eyebrow look often, because the adjective supercilious derives from "supercilium," Latin for eyebrow. (We plucked our adjective and its meaning from the Latin adjective superciliosus.) "Supercilious" has been used to describe the censoriously overbearing since the late 1600s, but there was a time in the 1700s when it was also used as a synonym of another "supercilium" descendent, "superciliary" ("of, relating to, or adjoining the eyebrow"). Although the eyebrow sense of "supercilious" is now obsolete, it does help explain what ornithologist John Latham meant in 1782 when he described a "Supercilious K[ingfisher]" with a narrow orange stripe over its eyes.
Synonym Discussion of supercilious
SUPERCILIOUS Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of supercilious for English Language Learners
: having or showing the proud and unpleasant attitude of people who think that they are better or more important than other people
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