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A pedant is a person who is excessively concerned with formalism and precision, or who makes a show of his or her learning.



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 multiple dictionaries suggest that it was contracted from the mediaeval 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, indicating someone overly concerned with minutiae and whose tone is perceived as condescending.[4] When it was first used by Shakespeare in Love's Labour's Lost (1598), it simply meant "teacher". Shortly afterwards it began to be used negatively. 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".

Medical conditions

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is also 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, persons with Asperger's Syndrome often have behaviour characterized by pedantic speech.[6]