Elitism vs. Snobbery — What's the Difference?
By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on November 30, 2023
Elitism emphasizes a belief in the superiority of a select group based on attributes like intellect or social status. Snobbery is an attitude of condescension or contempt towards others perceived as inferior or less refined.
Difference Between Elitism and Snobbery
Table of Contents
Elitism represents the belief that a select group, often characterized by attributes such as intelligence, wealth, pedigree, or cultural values, should hold positions of power or influence. This belief system is built upon the idea that these individuals have earned their elite status and, therefore, are best suited for leadership or decision-making roles. Snobbery, on the other hand, is more about an individual's attitude. A snob expresses disdain or condescension toward those they view as inferior, often based on superficial factors like taste, manners, or social standing.
Elitism can manifest institutionally or culturally. For example, certain universities or clubs might uphold elitist values by selectively admitting members based on academic prowess or family lineage. While the underlying belief is that these members bring something exceptional to the table, snobbery tends to lack this depth. Snobs might judge others based on their choice of wine, fashion, or other such preferences without considering the person's abilities or character.
In elitism, the distinction is drawn based on qualities that are often measurable or justifiable, like education or experience. An elitist might argue that someone from a top university is more suited for a job than someone from a less prestigious institution. In contrast, snobbery operates on bias, prejudice, or personal preference. A snob might dismiss someone solely based on their accent or the car they drive.
While elitism can be linked to a system of meritocracy where people earn their status, snobbery is more related to one's personal biases. An elitist might genuinely believe that they are in their position due to merit, whereas a snob often operates from a place of insecurity, using disdain as a shield against their perceived inadequacies.
Elitism and snobbery can sometimes overlap, but they stem from different beliefs and attitudes. Elitism's focus is on the system and who deserves to be at the top, whereas snobbery is more concerned with personal judgments and looking down on others.
Merit, ability, or lineage
Personal bias, prejudice, or superficial judgment
Group or class superiority
Individual attitudes and preferences
Institutions, leadership roles, systems
Personal interactions, tastes, behaviors
Belief in superiority based on measurable attributes
Desire to appear superior or mask insecurities
Concentration of power or influence in a select group
Social alienation or divisive behavior towards others
Compare with Definitions
An emphasis on distinction and exclusivity based on select attributes.
The club's elitism made it difficult for outsiders to join.
Behavior that belittles those deemed inferior or less sophisticated.
His snobbery became clear when he mocked their hometown traditions.
A sense of entitlement stemming from one's perceived superiority.
His elitism was clear when he expected special treatment at the venue.
An overemphasis on superficial attributes as a measure of worth or value.
Snobbery in fashion often disregards comfort and practicality.
A belief that certain individuals, due to superior attributes, are best suited for leadership or privileged positions.
The university's admission policy was criticized for its overt elitism.
A fixation on social status, often manifesting as a need to associate only with a perceived elite.
Her snobbery meant she only shopped at high-end boutiques.
Advocacy for the control of a system by a select group based on merit or qualities.
Elitism in the arts often means only the critically acclaimed get showcased.
An attitude of disdain or superiority over others based on perceived differences.
Her snobbery was evident when she scoffed at their choice of wine.
Favoring, associating with, or being a member of an elite class.
Her elitism was evident when she only attended high-profile events.
The act of displaying one's perceived superiority through behavior or attitude.
His snobbery at the party alienated many guests.
The belief that certain persons or members of certain groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their superiority, as in intelligence, social standing, or wealth.
Snobbish behavior or an instance of it.
Behavior arising from or indicative of such a belief.
The property or trait of being a snob.
Control, rule, or domination by the members of an elite.
The quality of being snobbish; snobbishness.
The belief that a society or system should be run by an elite.
The trait of condescending to those of lower social status
The superior attitude or behaviour associated with an elite.
The attitude that society should be governed by an elite group of individuals
What drives elitism?
Elitism is driven by the belief in the superiority of a select group based on attributes like intellect, wealth, or lineage.
What's the harm in snobbery?
Snobbery can lead to social divisions, misunderstandings, and alienation.
Is snobbery limited to high society?
No, snobbery can be exhibited in any societal group, focusing on different criteria of judgment.
How is snobbery manifested?
Snobbery manifests in attitudes of disdain or condescension towards others based on perceived inferiority or differences.
Can elitism be positive?
Some argue elitism can uphold standards of excellence, but it can also lead to exclusion and inequality.
Does elitism have a cultural component?
Yes, different cultures may have different criteria for what constitutes the "elite."
Is elitism always linked to wealth?
No, elitism can be based on various factors including intellect, culture, or education.
How can elitism affect society?
Elitism can lead to power imbalances, limited access to opportunities, and societal divisions.
Why do people exhibit snobbery?
Snobbery often stems from insecurity, a need for validation, or a desire to feel superior.
Can snobbery be subtle?
Yes, snobbery can manifest in subtle ways, from body language to choice of words.
Can someone be both elitist and a snob?
Yes, the two can overlap when someone believes in the superiority of a select group and also displays disdain toward others.
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Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.