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 formssu·per·cil·i·ous·ly, adverbsu·per·cil·i·ous·ness, nounun·su·per·cil·i·ous, adjectiveun·su·per·cil·i·ous·ly, adverbun·su·per·cil·i·ous·ness, noun

Synonyms for supercilious

Antonyms for supercilious Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for supercilious

Contemporary Examples of supercilious

Historical Examples of supercilious

  • "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

British Dictionary definitions for supercilious



displaying arrogant pride, scorn, or indifference
Derived Formssuperciliously, adverbsuperciliousness, noun

Word Origin for supercilious

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

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