Supercilious raises eyebrows

Supercilious is an adjective used to describe the haughtily disdainful or contemptuous either as a person or the facial expression that characterises it.

Supercilious is a word that shows that word-makers have always had a sense of humour. The word, supercilious, came into English in the early sixteenth century from the Latin word, supercilium, meaning haughty demeanour and pride. However its literal meaning was eyebrow from super, meaning above and cilium meaning eyelid. It comes from a description of the raised eyebrow that is an expression of arrogant contempt or haughty superiority.

When I think of supercilious my mind always conjures up a character from Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters, accustomed as they were to mingling with the haughty aristocracy of Regency England. A little search through their works yields quite a few passages—which follow, with a little abbreviating—that give a strong sense of superciliousness.

I have accompanied the passages with some of our favourite supercilious Australians.​

Alan Jones never less than totally supercilious

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Blanche Ingram, after having repelled, by supercilious taciturnity, some efforts of Mrs. Dent and Mrs. Eshton to draw her into conversation, … had flung herself in haughty listlessness on a sofa …

Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

Besides the old lady, there was another relative of the family, whose visits were a great annoyance to me – this was ‘Uncle Robson,’ … He seldom deigned to notice me; and, when he did, it was with a certain supercilious insolence of tone and manner that convinced me he was no gentleman: though it was intended to have a contrary effect.

Paul Keating known to be this supercilious

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

What sort of a person is Miss Wilson?’ she asked.

‘She is elegant and accomplished above the generality of her birth and station; and some say she is ladylike and agreeable.’

‘I thought her somewhat frigid, and rather supercilious in her manner today.’

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

As for Richard Wilson’s sister … shortly after the death of her mother she … took lodgings in – the county town, where she … lives … in a kind of close-fisted, cold, uncomfortable gentility, doing no good to others, and but little to herself; … loving no one and beloved by none – a cold-hearted, supercilious, keenly, insidiously censorious old maid.

Kevin Rudd super-supercilious

Shirley by Charlotte Bronte

Young ladies,’ continued Joe, assuming a lordly air, ‘ye’d better go into th’ house.’

‘I wonder what for?’ inquired Shirley, to whom the overlooker’s somewhat pragmatical manners were familiar, and who was often at war with him; for Joe, holding supercilious theories about women in general, resented greatly, in his secret soul, the fact of his master and his master’s mill being, in a manner, under petticoat government, and had felt as wormwood and gall certain business- visits of the heiress to the Hollow’s counting-house.

Shirley by Charlotte Bronte

Mr. Moore, left alone, rose from his desk.

‘I can be very cool and very supercilious with Henry,’ he said. ‘I can seem to make light of his apprehensions, and look down ‘du haut de ma grandeur’ on his youthful ardour.

Fred Nile not only Supercilious but sanctimonious

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Within a short walk of Longbourn lived a family with whom the Bennets were particularly intimate. Sir William Lucas had been formerly in trade in Meryton, where he had made a tolerable fortune, and risen to the honour of knighthood by an address to the king during his mayoralty. … For, though elated by his rank, it did not render him supercilious; on the contrary, he was all attention to everybody.