Definition of know-nothing in US English:



  • 1An ignorant person.

    • ‘Customer awareness is growing in part because the average buyer is fed up with callous treatment by apathetic clerks and know-nothing customer-service agents.’
    • ‘In doing so, he echoes the line of many a know-nothing conservative before him.’
    • ‘Notice that she is not skeptical about the power of science; she is not the sort of know-nothing who doubts the claims of scientists to be able to change the world.’
    • ‘It's not the semi-literate know-nothings who pollute the comment boards of blogs with their repetitive drivel.’
    • ‘The football authorities and club owners were snobbish, patronising know-nothings who treated the players like serfs.’
    • ‘It's an attempt by the know-nothings in Congress to pander to their constituencies and stir them up with idiotic talk of ‘unelected judges’ taking away their right.’
    • ‘I hate these unfounded accusations made by know-nothings.’
    • ‘Is it possible that conservatives are actually the intellectuals, reading books and playing with ideas and thinking about issues, while liberals are, at least comparatively, the unreflective know-nothings?’
    • ‘In the eyes of the Star Tribune, he is one of the know-nothings and charlatans waging war on law and reason and science and medicine.’
    • ‘I love this country, but the bureaucracy and authoritarian know-nothings are making it hazardous in their lapses of common sense and justice.’
    • ‘Burnside stands out from his peers; he's not a know-nothing writer but one with distinct theories about language and life.’
    • ‘Doesn't that moon-faced know-nothing know when to give up?’
    • ‘The truth, bluntly, is that he is an irresponsible know-nothing.’
    • ‘Ironically, a nation of know-nothings is secretly guided by adherents of an esoteric political tradition rooted in a grand conversation among philosophers ranging from ancient Greece to Weimar Germany.’
    • ‘You could hear it said on all sides, by various well-meaning know-nothings and celebrities, that the phenomenon was a product of ‘despair.’’
    • ‘He was a maniac, a know-nothing who wanted to impose himself on the story, without having a clue what it was about.’
    • ‘After all, a bunch of arrogant know-nothings was trying to use the Internet to hijack industries that took decades or centuries to build.’
    • ‘He gives the basics of the science behind his conclusions, very useful for a science know-nothing like myself, and the final few chapters try and draw out some lessons for us.’
    • ‘But to this know-nothing writer, this election seems different.’
    • ‘While at first she had thought him a reckless know-nothing, she learned that first impressions were deceiving.’
  • 2North American historical A member of a political party in the US, prominent from 1853 to 1856, that was antagonistic toward Roman Catholics and recent immigrants, and whose members preserved its secrecy by denying its existence.

    • ‘Unionists such as Sam Houston and Andrew Jackson Hamilton allied with the Know-Nothings, reflecting that party's strength among the small farmers in the western districts.’
    • ‘Many secret orders sprang up, and when outsiders made interrogations of supposed members, they were answered with a statement that the person knew nothing, which is why members were called Know-Nothings.’
    • ‘Does anybody remember reading about the Bull Moose Party, or the Know-Nothings?’
    • ‘Both Know-Nothings and Democrats exaggerated the events in Kansas and predicted disaster if the other party were to be entrusted with protecting slavery.’
    • ‘Concerning the nomination of Fillmore, it was the perception of Fillmore throughout the state, not his actual record, that was most important in sending Know-Nothings to the Democratic Party.’