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A pedant is a person who is excessively concerned with formalism, accuracy and precision or who makes an ostentatious and arrogant show of learning.


  • Etymology 1
  • Connotation 2
  • Medical conditions 3
  • Quotations 4
  • Pedants in literature and fiction 5
  • References 6


The English language word "pedant" comes from the French pédant (used in 1566 in Darme & Hatzfeldster's Dictionnaire général de la langue française) or its older mid-15th century Italian source pedante, "teacher, schoolmaster". (Compare the Spanish pedante.) The origin of the Italian pedante is uncertain, but several dictionaries suggest that it was contracted from the medieval Latin pædagogans, present participle of pædagogare, "to act as pedagogue, to teach" (Du Cange).[1] The Latin word is derived from Greek παιδαγωγός, paidagōgós, παιδ- "child" + ἀγειν "to lead", which originally referred to a slave who escorted children to and from school but later meant "a source of instruction or guidance".[2][3]


The term in English is typically used with a negative connotation to refer to someone who is overly concerned with minutiae and whose tone is condescending.[4] Thomas Nashe wrote in Have with you to Saffron-walden (1596), page 43: "O, tis a precious apothegmaticall [terse] Pedant, who will finde matter inough to dilate a whole daye of the first inuention [invention] of Fy, fa, fum". However, when the word was first used by Shakespeare in Love's Labour's Lost (1598), it simply meant "teacher".

Medical conditions

Obsessive–compulsive personality disorder is in part characterized by a form of pedantry that is overly concerned with the correct following of rules, procedures and practices.[5] Sometimes the rules that OCPD sufferers obsessively follow are of their own devising, or are corruptions or re-interpretations of the letter of actual rules.

Pedantry can also be an indication of specific developmental disorders. In particular, people with Asperger syndrome often have behaviour characterized by pedantic speech.[6]


  • "A Man who has been brought up among Books, and is able to talk of nothing else, is what we call a Pedant. But, methinks, we should enlarge the Title, and give it to every one that does not know how to think out of his Profession and particular way of Life." ―Joseph Addison, Spectator (1711)[7]
  • "Nothing is as peevish and pedantic as men's judgements of one another." ―Desiderius Erasmus[8]
  • "The pedant is he who finds it impossible to read criticism of himself without immediately reaching for his pen and replying to the effect that the accusation is a gross insult to his person. He is, in effect, a man unable to laugh at himself." ―Sigmund Freud, The Ego and the Id
  • "Servile and impertinent, shallow and pedantic, a bigot and sot" ―Thomas Macaulay, describing James Boswell
  • "The term, then, is obviously a relative one: my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education and someone else’s ignorance."―H. W. Fowler, Modern English Usage
  • "Pedantic, I?" ―Alexei Sayle
  • "Never argue with a pedant over nomenclature. It wastes your time and annoys the pedant." ―Lois McMaster Bujold
  • "If you're the kind of person who insists on this or that 'correct' use... abandon your pedantry as I did mine. Dive into the open flowing waters and leave the stagnant canals be... Above all, let there be pleasure!" ―Stephen Fry
  • "Ben is a crossword-doer, a dictionary-lover, a pedant." ―Julian Barnes

Pedants in literature and fiction


  1. ^ "pedant". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Fifth ed.). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 2014. Retrieved 27 March 2015. 
  2. ^ pedant, n. and adj. The Oxford English Dictionary (Draft ed.) ( 
  3. ^ Harper, Douglas. "pedant".  
  4. ^ pedantic definition | Accessed on 2008-12-29
  5. ^ Anankastic personality disorder. International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 10th Revision (ICD-10).
  6. ^ "Asperger's Syndrome: Guidelines for Assesment and Intervention". 2007-04-07. Retrieved 2013-07-25. 
  7. ^ Addison, Joseph (30 June 1711). "Saturday, June 30, 1711". Spectator (105). Archived from the original on 3 November 2004. Retrieved 27 March 2015. 
  8. ^ Croucher, Rowland. "Desiderius Erasmus Quotes". John Mark Ministries. Retrieved 2013-07-25. 
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