a. One skilled in elaborate and devious argumentation.
b. A scholar or thinker.
2. Sophist Any of a group of professional fifth-century BC Greek philosophers and teachers who speculated on theology, metaphysics, and the sciences, and who were later characterized by Plato as superficial manipulators of rhetoric and dialectic.
[Middle English sophiste, from Latin sophista, from Greek sophistēs, from sophizesthai, to become wise, from sophos, clever.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.