Snob






What is the origin of the word Snob?


We are often told that this originated as an abbreviation for the Latin phrase sine nobilitate without nobility used to mark out those of a humble social background. None of our informants can agree on the circumstances in which this abbreviation was supposedly used: on lists of names of Oxford or Cambridge students, on lists of ships' passengers (to make sure that only the best people dined at the captain's table), as a marginal note in genealogies, on lists of guests to indicate that no title was required when they were announced. But the word snob (or in Scotland snab) is first recorded in the late 18th century as a term for a shoemaker or his apprentice. At about this time it was indeed adopted by Cambridge students, but they did not use it to refer to students who lacked a title or were of humble origins. They used it generally of anyone who was not a student. By the early 19th century it was being used to mean a person with no breeding, both the honest labourers who knew their place and the vulgar social climbers who aped the manners of the upper classes. It was this latter group to whom the word has now become specially applied. Those who patronize or ignore anyone they perceive as inferior in social position, education or taste. It is quite possible that the phrase sine nobilitate may have appeared in one context or another, but we can't see why it would have given rise to a word for a shoemaker.





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