arrogant - sometimes not pejorative?

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Senior Member
Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
A native speaker of AE recently made a statement that I found very surprising, saying that arrogant is not necessarily a pejorative term.

I've looked around and searched my memory, but I do not manage to come up with any usage of arrogant that is neutral or positive. Do any such exist?

  • Archbishop

    Senior Member
    Hello Nunty,

    It crossed in my mind "arrogant" after your post, and I ususlly use it to indicate something very snotty or presumptuos referring to a person or a fact...but I could image whether it has been used as pretentious concept, for istance searching for a strong stimolous by another person.


    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    My OED is in danger of overheating - but the only definition for arrogant (adjective) confirms the views above:
    Making or implying unwarrantable claims to dignity, authority, or knowledge; aggressively conceited or haughty, presumptuous, overbearing. (Used of men, their actions, manner, etc.)

    It's hard to imagine any context in which this is not pejorative.


    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I suppose those who are enthusiasts for, say, the writings of Ayn Rand, and who consider humility and compassion to be vices, might think of arrogance as a virtue. Luckily, such folk are rare.

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I would have said it was usually pejorative, but like most words which have a dominant colour, it can be used by a writer in search of a mild paradox. Look at these two examples, to illustrate the point.

    The Price of Things by Elinor Glyn: Chapter 18

    Denzil had none of these limitations; he said everything which could cajole and excite the imagination. He murmured a hundred affecting tendernesses in her ears. He caressed her - he commanded and mastered her, and then assured her that he was her slave. He was arrogant and humble - arrogant when he claimed her love, humble in his worship.

    Here Denzil's pride in loving her, and in her love of him, is a source of pleasure to her, and the normally critical word carries an extra tone of approval, because of the new light in which it is presented.

    John Barleycorn by Jack London: Chapter 31

    "I used to smoke," he went on. "Cigars. But I gave even them up. And look at me."
    The man was arrogant, and rightly arrogant, with conscious well-being.

    Here arrogance is presented almost as proper pride, the essential life-giving side of the deadly sin.
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    TT, the sentence from John Barleycorn, or something very like it, had been tickling at the back of my brain, but I was associating it with Austin's Mr. Darcy, and so couldn't find it.

    I conclude, after this discussion, that the person who made the statement was mistaken (or a disciple of Ayn Rand).

    Thanks to everyone for your input.


    Senior Member
    English English
    Actually GW, the only thing I know about E.G. was that she invented it.
    Sorry: I mean she invented It.
    Unless that was someone else.
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