Sutor, ne ultra crepidam

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Vasari's home in Florence, Apelles

Sutor, ne ultra crepidam is a Latin expression meaning literally 'Shoemaker, not beyond the shoe', used to warn individuals not to pass judgment beyond their expertise. The expression led to the term ultracrepidarianism, which is the giving of opinions and advice on matters outside of one's knowledge.

Its origin is set down in Pliny the Elder's Naturalis Historia [35.85[1] (Loeb IX, 323–325)] where he records that a shoemaker (sutor) had approached the painter Apelles of Kos to point out a defect in the artist's rendition of a sandal (crepida from Greek krepis), which Apelles duly corrected. Encouraged by this, the shoemaker then began to enlarge on other defects he considered present in the painting, at which point Apelles advised him that ne supra crepidam sutor iudicaret[1] ('a shoemaker should not judge beyond the shoe'),[1] which advice, Pliny observed, had become a proverbial saying. The Renaissance interest both in painting and classical antiquity made the expression popular again.[2]

The saying remains popular in several languages, as in the English "A cobbler should stick to his last",[3] the Dutch Schoenmaker, blijf bij je leest, the Danish Skomager, bliv ved din læst, the German Schuster, bleib bei deinem Leisten, and the Polish Pilnuj, szewcze, kopyta. Other languages use slightly changed forms: the Spanish Zapatero, a tus zapatos ('Shoemaker, [tend] to your shoes'),[4] and the Russian Суди, дружок, не свыше сапога ('Judge not, pal, above the boot'), after Alexander Pushkin's poetic retelling of the legend.[5]

Karl Marx ridiculed the idea: "'Ne sutor ultra crepidam' – this nec plus ultra of handicraft wisdom became sheer nonsense, from the moment the watchmaker Watt invented the steam-engine, the barber Arkwright the throstle, and the working-jeweller Fulton the steamship."[6]


Ultracrepidarianism is the behavior of giving of opinions and advice on matters outside of one's knowledge

The term ultracrepidarian was first publicly recorded in 1819 by the English essayist William Hazlitt in an open Letter to William Gifford, the editor of the Quarterly Review: "You have been well called an Ultra-Crepidarian critic."[7] It was used again four years later in 1823, in the satire by Hazlitt's friend Leigh Hunt, Ultra-Crepidarius: A Satire on William Gifford. Occasionally the word ultracrepidarianism was used later.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Simpson, John (2009). A Dictionary of Proverbs (5th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780191580017. ISBN 0-199-53953-7; ISBN 978-0-19953-953-6.
  2. ^ (de) Hessler, C., "Ne supra crepidam sutor!" [Schuster, bleib bei deinem Leisten!]: Das Diktum des Apelles seit Petrarca bis zum Ende des Quattrocento, Fifteenth Century Studies, vol. 33 (2008)p/133-50. pdf
  3. ^ Luximon, Ameersing; Ma, Xiao (30 September 2013). Handbook of Footwear Design and Manufacture. Elsevier Science. p. 177. ISBN 978-0-85709-879-5. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  4. ^ "Significado de Zapatero a tus zapatos".
  6. ^ Marx, Karl. "XV. Machinery and Modern Industry". In Engels, Frederick (ed.). Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Vol. I. Translated by Moore, Samuel; Aveling, Edward; Untermann, Ernest. p. 488 – via Wikisource.
  7. ^ A Letter to William Gifford, in The Complete Works of William Hazlitt, vol. 9 (1932), ed. P. Howe, p. 16; the same form is seen in an unpublished Reply to Z, ibid. p.9; the editor comments that the neologism might have been coined by Hazlitt's friend Charles Lamb.
  8. ^ Gregory Bergman, (2006) Isms: From Autoeroticism to Zoroastrianism (An Irreverent Reference). Adams Media ISBN 9781593374839

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