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[soo-per-sil-ee-uh s] /ˌsu pərˈsɪl i əs/
haughtily disdainful or contemptuous, as a person or a facial expression.
Origin of supercilious
From the Latin word superciliōsus, dating back to 1520-30. See supercilium, -ous
Related forms
superciliously, adverb
superciliousness, noun
unsupercilious, adjective
unsuperciliously, adverb
unsuperciliousness, noun
arrogant, scornful.
humble. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for supercilious
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "Not particularly," she replied, still chirpy as to tone and supercilious as to her manner.

    Good Indian B. M. Bower
  • I asked him if, when he said his prayers, he was so supercilious as to pray for his daily biscuits.

    Alarms and Discursions G. K. Chesterton
  • In the classes above them the supernatural has been slain by the supercilious.

    Alarms and Discursions G. K. Chesterton
  • He never saluted me with other than what I regarded as a supercilious nod of the head.

    Wilfrid Cumbermede George MacDonald
  • Wrayson looked at him for a moment in supercilious surprise.

    The Avenger E. Phillips Oppenheim
  • This, in a supercilious air, while she drew from the narghilah the smoke, which I could not relish.

    The Book of Khalid Ameen Rihani
  • He had passed her with his haughty, supercilious air, pretending not to recognize her.

    The Downfall Emile Zola
British Dictionary definitions for supercilious


displaying arrogant pride, scorn, or indifference
Derived Forms
superciliously, adverb
superciliousness, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Latin superciliōsus, from supercilium eyebrow; see superciliary
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for supercilious

1520s, from Latin superciliosus "haughty, arrogant," from supercilium "haughty demeanor, pride," literally "eyebrow" (via notion of raising the eyebrow to express haughtiness), from super "above" (see super-) + second element akin to cilium "eyelid," related to celare "to cover, hide," from PIE root *kel- "to conceal" (see cell).

Since cilium is more recent than supercilium, the former can be interpreted as a back-formation to the latter .... If indeed derived from the root *kel- 'to hide', we must still assume that a noun *kilium 'eyelid' existed, since the eyelid can 'hide' the eye, whereas the eyebrow does not have such a function. Thus, supercilium may originally have meant 'what is above the cilium'. [Michiel de Vaan, "Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the other Italic Languages," Leiden, 2008]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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