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A pundit is someone who offers to mass-media his or her opinion or commentary on a particular subject area (most typically political analysis, the social sciences or sport) on which they are knowledgeable. The term has been increasingly applied to popular media personalities. In certain cases, it may be used in a derogatory manner as well.


The term originates from the Sanskrit (a language from ancient India) term paṇḍitá, meaning "learned" (see also Pandit). It refers to someone who is erudite in various subjects and who conducts religious ceremonies and offers counsel to the king.

From at least the early 19th century, a Pundit of the Supreme Court in Colonial India was an officer of the judiciary who advised British judges on questions of Hindu law. In Anglo-Indian use, pundit also referred to a native of India who was trained and employed by the British to survey inaccessible regions beyond the British frontier.

Current use

Speculation exists that the term's contemporary use may have its origins in a Yale Universitymarker society known as "The Pundits" which, founded in 1884, developed a reputation for including among its members the school's most incisive and humorous critics of contemporary society. The group's late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century focus on lampooning the social and political world were well-documented in the university's yearbook and the Yale Daily News, the entries of which are considered among the first use of the term "Pundit" to refer to a critic of or expert on contemporary matters. Several members of the society have also gone on to become leading political pundits, including Pulitzer Prize-winning author and energy expert Daniel Yergin. Other notable Yale Pundits include A. Whitney Griswold, Lewis H. Lapham and Joe Lieberman.

In the English-speaking West, pundits write signed articles in print media (blurbs included), and appear on radio, television, or the internet with opinions on current events. Television pundits may also be referred to as talking heads. In a BBC television interview following the murder of John Lennon, former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson insisted that in selecting the Beatles for OBEs, he was acting on his belief that the pop group was doing something new that 'the pundits' (by which he presumably meant people such as newspaper music critics) had not recognised. This derogatory use of the word is an indication of the low esteem in which commentators (particularly cultural commentators) are held in the Britain (particularly by politicians).

Punditry has become a more popular vehicle in nightly newscasts on American cable news networks. A rise of partisanship among popular pundits began with Bill O'Reilly of Fox News Channel. His opinion-oriented format led him to ratings success and has led others, including Lou Dobbs, Keith Olbermann, and Nancy Grace, to express their opinions on matters on their own programs.

In sports commentating, a "pundit" or Color commentator may be partnered with a play-by-play announcer who will describe the action while asking the pundit for analysis. Alternatively, pundits may be asked for their opinions during breaks in the play.


A two-decade study of political pundits by Philip Tetlock found they performed worse than random chance when asked to make multiple-choice predictions.

See also


  1. "pundit, n." in Oxford English Dictionary
  2. Cable rantings boost ratings -
  3. Philip E. Tetlock. Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know? Princeton University Press, 2005.

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