A single word to describe someone who is both old and wise

16
2014-04
  • jlund3

    I am trying to find a word which describes someone who is both old and wise. I would like the word to describe someone who is extremely frail and infirm. It might also have the connotation that their counsel is odd or hard to follow, even if it is sound advice.

  • Answers
  • amcnabb

    The closest word I can think of is "sage", which seems to connote someone who is both old and wise.

    In certain contexts, it might also be possible to use "patriarch" or "elder", which both imply wisdom or age, but these words add some political connotations that may or may not be desirable.

    I'm not sure if there exists a word that includes quirkiness, too. If you don't mind using semi-proper names (in a somewhat more metaphorical sense), you could use "einstein", "oz", or "yoda". These can be probably be used as common nouns, but they may be too strongly tied with the original individuals the words come from.

  • tchrist

    I am trying to find a word which describes someone who is both old and wise.

    The word you are looking for is venerable, which per the OED is:

    Commanding veneration or respect by reason of age combined with high personal character and dignity of appearance; having an impressive appearance in virtue of years and personal qualities.

    Even if that is not quite exactly what you are looking for, then you should be able to find related terms easily enough.

    Regarding the other aspect you asked about, that the advice be odd or difficult to follow, you might start with Delphic. The OED gives one sense for this as "oracular, of the obscure and ambiguous nature of the responses of the Delphic oracle", and provides as a citation the following:

    This reads rather like a Delphic response.

  • bib

    The term doyen is often used to convey some of those characteristics. According to Merriam Webster:

    a : the senior member of a body or group b : a person considered to be knowledgeable or uniquely skilled as a result of long experience in some field of endeavor

    Often this term is used with "the" to indicate the most knowledgable or skilled person in a field. According to the Compact Oxford English Dictionary:

    the most respected or prominent person in a particular field

    This term probably does not convey frail, infirm or quirky.

    SUPPLEMENT: Another possibility is a phrase, not a single word. The term ancient one connotes both age and respect, maybe wisdom, especially when used as an address, and has a feeling of frailty. I still don't think it conveys quirky, though.

  • rsegal

    Venerable? (No quirkiness) Wizened? (No quirkiness) Sensei? (In its English usage, anyway.)

    My guess is that you could swing it with two words, but you wont find one that completely covers it.

    Since you're looking for a single word, I assume you're writing something and not trying to explain it in conversation. If so, I'd say make up a word that sounds right, and tell the reader that it means or has as connotations all the above things.

  • Dreamling

    Wyrd may be a choice. Though it is often associated with witches.


  • Related Question

    A word for a worldly wise person who pretends to be naïve?
  • Sarawut Positwinyu

    What is a word for someone who is experienced and wise, but who deliberately acts naïve?

    I don’t intend it for sarcastic use; I’m trying to describe someone succeeding in making people think that that person truly is naïve.

    Is there a word for this?


  • Related Answers
  • tchrist

    I’d probably go for disingenuous: “Assuming a pose of naïveté to make a point or for deception.”

  • onomatomaniak

    Feigned ignorance is an expression used when someone pretends to be uninformed or unknowledgeable about something.

  • tchrist

    You could call them faux naïf.

  • Grady Player

    I would go with "Lt. Columbo".

  • tchrist

    Depending on the context, you could consider hustler. This is the exact and precise word to use if someone is playing pool for money: they pretend to barely know the game, even lose a few small bets to you, then make a big bet and win dramatically. However, the word hustler has some other meanings, so if you try to apply to some context other than playing pool for money, it might be misinterpreted.

    If the person’s reason for hiding their wisdom and experience is not to con or hustle you, then there is probably not a good single word for it. False, artificial, feigned or fake1 innocence, inexperience, or naïveté are probably the phrases you could use.


    1. Or faux, if saying it in French appeals to you.
  • jim

    Coy - artfully or affectedly shy or reserved; slyly hesitant; coquettish.

  • Caleb

    The phrase a wolf in sheep's clothing may apply here. It refers to someone who pretends to be harmless and/or innocent when, in fact, they are not. It describes someone with an ulterior motive.

  • JWEnglish

    playing dumb

    Defined in wiktionary.org as:

    (idiomatic) To pretend to be slow-witted or lacking in specific knowledge, usually in order to avoid responsibility or to gain some advantage.

  • Codie CodeMonkey

    I've hunted around a bit and found that "false naivety" is a common phrase for this. I haven't found a single word that has the same meaning however.

  • Firstrock

    A disingenue, particularly if you are intending to use this to describe a girl. Disingenuous is close, but not quite satisfactory. It does not denote a discrimination of its object, which would be a girl who attempts to appear innocent. This is the opposite of an ingenue, defined as an "innocent, unworldly girl".

  • kekekela

    This person is more commonly known as a "player".

  • Lucas

    Perhaps sandbagger would also be appropriate.

  • AndrewNimmo

    A darker definition is duplicitous which, whilst you may not associate it with the normal meaning and context for wise, could certainly describe the act of deceitful naivety.