What Is a Pundit?

A pundit is a person that publicly expresses their opinions or comments on a topic on which they consider themselves an expert. The term "pundit" can be used to describe someone that is actually an expert in a field, and it can also be used in a negative sense to classify someone who has definite opinions but lacks the expertise to back them up. It is used to describe recognized authorities and, increasingly, to describe TV and radio hosts that are seen to be louder than they are learned.

Key Takeaways

  • A pundit is a person that publicly expresses their opinions or comments on a topic on which they consider themselves an expert.
  • The term "pundit" can be used to describe someone that is actually an expert in a field, and it can also be used in a negative sense, too.
  • In the information age it can be difficult to fact check the claims of a pundit, but a track record of success is one way to separate the truth from the hype.

Understanding a Pundit

Examples from the finance world would be a well-known market analyst that publicly gives buy and sell recommendations on stocks or a business columnist who writes opinion pieces for a national newspaper or website. Cable television networks with vast amounts of time to fill and talk radio are the preferred venues of the pundit.

In modern usage, the term pundit is often used to describe media personalities who are vocal proponents or critics of certain political ideologies, sports teams, investments, social issues, etc. The terms "right-wing pundit" and "left-wing pundit" are used to describe outspoken conservative and liberal figures, respectively.

Age of the Pundit

This may be the golden age of the pundit. Never have so many people written, said, and tweeted so much about so many issues. These days on the national political stage nearly all pundits can be sorted into left and right, Republican and Democrat, with shadings on both ends that go from the extreme left to the extreme right. Many believe the pundits have furthered the polarization of the country. In the information age it can be difficult to fact check the claims of a pundit, but a track record of success is one way to separate the truth from the hype. Many pundits will come and go, but the ones that last have clearly built a loyal following.

The word "pundit" comes from the Hindi pandit. And pandit was derived from the Sanskrit pandita, which means "a learned man or scholar." The term first enters English in the late seventeenth century, referring to a court official in Colonial India who advised English judges about Hindu law, according to Dictionary.com.

"A striving pundit comes to the gates of the content mine and learns first and foremost that career-greasing respectability comes from having the courage to basically agree with your peers, to flatter their savvy while they flatter yours," writes Emmett Rensin in the Los Angeles Review of Books. "In the pundit class, it is better to commit the same error as everybody else than to risk the possibility of an embarrassing divergence."

Punditry is "all one terrible feedback loop, every day drawing the circle of knowledge a little darker, and a little tighter around the mind," he writes.