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poseur

[ poh-zur; French paw-zœr ]
/ poʊˈzɜr; French pɔˈzœr /
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noun, plural po·seurs [poh-zurz; French paw-zœr]. /poʊˈzɜrz; French pɔˈzœr/.
a person who attempts to impress others by assuming or affecting a manner, degree of elegance, sentiment, etc., other than his or her true one.
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Origin of poseur

From French, dating back to 1880–85; see origin at pose1, -eur

Words nearby poseur

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

ABOUT THIS WORD

What does poseur mean?

A poseur, commonly spelled poser, is when you act like someone you’re not or when you’re perceived to be inauthentic. So-called emo scene kids might be called poseurs.

Where did poseur come from?

The word poseur in English is, in fact, taken from French, making the word poseur a … poser.

The verb poser in French means “to place” or “to set.” In 17th-century French, a poseur referred to someone who placed objects, typically in the construction sense, such as someone who paves roads or installs floor tiles. This meaning persists and was the main meaning of poseur until the mid-19th century.

By the 19th century, the French poseur was used to refer to someone with an affected air or someone who was a bit pretentious—they’re making a pose, like someone who uses a lot of hoity-toity French words when they’re talking.

The word poseur entered English by 1869 in its sense of “one who practices affected attitudes.” By the early 20th century, poseur was in widespread use in English to describe someone who pretended to be something they were not, especially someone who is superficial and trendy.

Initially, the alternate spelling of poser (from the 1880s) was not as widely used. This may have been due to the fact that poser originally meant “a difficult puzzle” in American English. Once the loanword settled into English and started being pronounced more natively with the stress on the first syllable, poser started to become more common.

In the 1990–2000s, authenticity was increasingly valued among youth, especially countercultural groups like punks or skateboarders, who would call poseurs/posers those hangers-on or scenesters who adopted their look but not their lifestyle or activities.

Who uses poseur?

While debates on who is and isn’t a poseur date back to the turn of the 20th century, peak-poseur in the modern era was back in the early 2000s. The arguments over who was a “real emo kid” and who was “just a poser” were commonplace on MySpace circa 2005.

Although the ferocity of those debates has died down a bit, using poser as an insult remains a trademark of any alternative or underground scene, particularly skating, punk, goth, and geek subcultures. Calling someone a poser implies they don’t really know or care about all the nuances of, say, Star Trek the way a real trekkie would.

While it’s sometimes true that people are just pretending to be into something, the charges of poser get pretty tiring pretty quickly. Does it really matter if they can’t speak fluent Klingon if they’re just trying to have fun?

More examples of poseur:

“Even the most clueless poseur should recognize Akira as anime, a Japanese style of animation.”
—Jon Roe, Calgary Herald, June 2018

Note

This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

How to use poseur in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for poseur

poseur
/ (pəʊˈzɜː) /

noun
a person who strikes an attitude or assumes a pose in order to impress others

Word Origin for poseur

C19: from French, from poser to pose 1
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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