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Also found in: Idioms.


1. A totally ignorant person; an ignoramus.
2. An anti-intellectual.
3. An agnostic.
4. Know-Nothing A member of a political party in the United States during the 1850s that was antagonistic toward recent immigrants and Roman Catholics.

know′-noth′ing·ism n.


informal derogatory an ignorant person


1. an ignorant or totally uninformed person; ignoramus.
2. (caps.) a member of a U.S. political party of the 1850s, whose aim was to exclude Catholics and the foreign-born from political participation: so called because members professed ignorance of the party's activities.
3. an agnostic.
References in periodicals archive ?
In 1854, the Know-Nothings swept the Whigs into oblivion and captured 99 percent of the state government in one spectacular election.
For a year or two the Know-Nothings were the most powerful third party in American history.
While his dour vision may provide a call to action for similarly hoary policymakers in Congress, what it most clearly indicates is that Huntington and his ilk are mostly know-nothings about reality on the streets of the United States.
Most people think the Know-Nothings were anti-Catholic bigots -- because they were -- but Brimelow says nothing could be further from the truth.
The Know-nothings," Brimelow concedes "were, however, deeply suspicious of Roman Catholicism -- at a time when enormous Irish Catholic immigration had begun, after the potato famine of 1845.
When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read 'all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics"' (emphasis in original).
The pro-labor activists of the Know-Nothings and any relationships they might have had with the German-American labor movement are left unexplored, as are the ties which sometimes developed between Anglo-American and German-American anti-Catholics.
The Irish are perhaps the only people in our history with the distinction of having a political party, the Know-Nothings, formed against them," wrote John F.