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An adjective (or a noun), meaning "someone who gives opinions or criticizes on matters beyond their knowledge."

The word is first recorded as being used by William Hazlitt. Apparently there was a bit of bad blood between him and William Gifford, the editor of the Quarterly Review. Hazlitt, being a writer, wrote a fairly scathing letter to Gifford in 1819, a piece which has been called “one of the finest works of invective in the language”. In this letter, among other things, he wrote that “You have been well called an Ultra-Crepidarian critic”.

The word, of course, is derived from Latin. Apparently the Greek painter Apelles would place a picture that he had painted in public view, then would stand out of sight and listen to their comments. A shoemaker once criticized a painting because one of the subject's sandals had too few loops. Apelles corrected this, and the shoemaker, encouraged by his earlier success, went on to criticize the subject's leg. Apelles is reported to have replied that a shoemaker should not judge beyond his sandals, meaning that he felt the shoemaker had no basis of knowledge from which to make this criticism. Pliny, who wrote about the incident, wrote 'ne supra crepidam judicaret', but it eventually got abbreviated down to 'ultra crepidam', meaning "beyond the sole". It is from ultra crepidam that Hazlitt derived "Ultracrepidarian".

I think the story behind this word is one that we here at E2 would do well to remember.

Michael Quinion, "Weird Words: Ultracrepidarian," World Wide Words. 04/19/2003. <http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-ult1.htm> (10/12/2004).

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