Origin of the word:
1781, "a shoemaker, a shoemaker's apprentice," of unknown origin. It came to be used in Cambridge University slang c. 1796, often contemptuously, for "townsman, local merchant," and passed then into literary use, where by 1831 it was being used for "person of the ordinary or lower classes." Meaning "person who vulgarly apes his social superiors" is by 1843, popularized 1848 by William Thackeray's "Book of Snobs." The meaning later broadened to include those who insist on their gentility, in addition to those who merely aspire to it, and by 1911 the word had its main modern sense of "one who despises those considered inferior in rank, attainment, or taste." Inverted snob is from 1909.
Then there is that singular anomaly, the Inverted Snob, who balances a chip on his shoulder and thinks that everyone of wealth or social prominence is necessarily to be distrusted; that the rich are always pretentious and worldly, while those who have few material possessions are themselves possessed (like Rose Aylmer) of every virtue, every grace. [Atlantic Monthly, February 1922]
- a person with an exaggerated respect for high social position or wealth who seeks to associate with social superiors and looks down on those regarded as socially inferior.
"her mother was a snob and wanted a lawyer as a son-in-law"
- a person who believes that their tastes in a particular area are superior to those of other people: "a musical snob"
Other useful definitions by Creative, and Game-Changing Thinkers:
"Two centuries ago, shoemakers in England were called snobs. (It sort of rhymes with cobbler).
Good ones combined care with quality. They put in the effort to make a shoe that exceeded expectations and leaned into the possibility of their craft. The others were simply hacks, trying to get by with little effort.
In an ironic and cruel twist, the term “snob” was taken from these committed craftspeople and used to describe someone who looked down on others, particularly those with fewer resources. A hard-working cobbler was viewed with disdain because they had no silver spoon. It was also used to describe someone who gave those with more money or caste a persistent benefit of the doubt that they might not deserve.
And for a century the term was been pushed beyond cultural economics to describe someone who is a defender of scarcity and the status quo. A wine snob, for example, insisted on an expensive vintage, preferably from certain parts of Europe.
The circle comes around, as it often does. The best kind of snob is a throwback to that original cobbler and their customers, someone who can see past appearances or the traditional approaches and instead looks for care and quality. Which can happen regardless of where someone comes from. It’s not enough to be a cobbler. You need to be one who cares.
Effort and good judgment lead to good taste and cultural leadership.
We shouldn’t settle." - Seth Godin