zoilus /ZOH-i-ləs/. noun. A bitter, envious, even malignant critic given to unjust faultfinding. Coined after the Ancient Greek critic of the same name who was famous for his criticism of Homer, leading to his nickname Homeromastix (scourge of Homer) and his place in the proverb that “every poet has his Zoilus.” None of Zoilus’s writing has survived.
“I am unable to prevent my own Zoilus from imitating a bright and saucy schoolboy, but really he should not tell me how to spell the plural of ‘automaton’ which has two endings, both correct. And what business does he have to rebuke me for preferring Theocritus to Virgil and to insinuate that I have read neither?” (Vladimir Nabokov)
“As Homer had a Zoilus, so Mr. Rowe had sometimes his; for there were not wanting malevolent people, and pretenders to poetry too, that would now and then bark at his best performances…” (Samuel Johnson)
“Nay, should great Homer lift his awful head,
Zoilus again would start up from the dead.
Envy will Merit as its shade pursue,
But like a shadow proves the substance true…”
“Zoilus (a majestic rascal,
whom only lust of gain can stir)
and Publicus, litterateur
(a nervous leaseholder of glory),
cower before me in dismay”
“You Zoiluses, jealous and envious, will die of fear. Go and hang yourselves and choose a tree for yourself to do it on: you will never lack a rope…” (Rabelais)
Select Synonyms: carper, fault-finder, nit-picker, knocker.