Fount of Knowledge – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Do you know someone who seems to have expert-level knowledge about nearly everything, or who at least seems very well informed? You could call that person a “fount of knowledge”. Keep reading to discover what this idiom means, where it came from, and how to put it to use.

​​Meaning

The idiom “fount of knowledge” refers to a source of great, and often almost endless, knowledge.

People may be described as being founts of knowledge, but so may books, educational institutions, or even the internet.

The variation “fount of wisdom” has a similar meaning, but the person, book, or other source of information offers great wisdom instead in that instance.

A “fount” is a “spring of water”, or a fountain, and as such, the idiom “fount of knowledge” invokes imagery of ever-flowing knowledge, like water flows from a spring.

​​Example Usage

Are you curious how you might be able to incorporate the phrase “fount of knowledge” into a sentence? These examples should help you out:

  • “My 10-year-old nephew knows everything there is to know about trains. He’s a real fount of knowledge.”
  • “Who needs school when you have the world wide web? The internet is like the fount of all knowledge.”
  • “My coworker thinks she’s a fount of knowledge when it comes to investment properties, and always urges us to get a buy-to-rent property.”

​​Origin

The idiom “fount of knowledge” dates back to the late sixteenth century and has a rather fascinating history.

The word “fount”, meaning “a spring of water”, comes from the French “font”, which in turn came from the French “fontaine”, meaning “fountain”.

A fountain, whether natural or artificial, provides a constant source of water. The phrase “fount of knowledge”, is, as such, a rather vivid idiom that that likens a source of great knowledge to a flowing fountain. No matter how much you drink, there always seems to be more.

There is considerable debate about whether the idiom should be “fount of knowledge” or “font of knowledge“, and looking at the original French reveals that both “fount” and “font” have the same etymology (linguistic origin).

Both could, therefore, perhaps be considered correct, but “fount of knowledge” is the more common use.

It is important to consider that, in modern English:

  • “Fount” means “spring” or “fountain” — a source of water.
  • “Font” means a vessel, typically made of stone, used in religious sacraments.

Besides a “fount of knowledge”, you can also say “fount of wisdom”. You could, indeed, adapt this saying to indicate that someone or something is a constant source of anything you like, such as saying that someone is a “fount of trouble”, or whatever else you like.

Phrases Similar to Fount of Knowledge

If you don’t want to use the idiom “fount of knowledge”, you could also try:

  • Walking encyclopedia — used to refer to any person who seems to be a fount of knowledge.
  • Einstein — colloquially used to describe anyone who is very intelligent and knowledgeable.
  • Brainiac — slang for very intelligent person.

Phrases Opposite to Fount of Knowledge

Someone who is a fount of knowledge is very knowledgeable. The opposite would be someone who is uneducated, ignorant, or not very intelligent. Phrases that convey this meaning include:

  • Not the brightest bulb or not the sharpest knife.
  • A few cents short of a dollar.

​What Is the Correct Saying?

The correct saying is “fount of knowledge”. This idiom refers to a source of great knowledge, whether a person, a book, or an institution.

​​Ways People May Say Fount of Knowledge Incorrectly

The variation “font of knowledge” is also in use. It is used less commonly and is often considered to be incorrect. You would therefore be advised to avoid this variation.

It is, however, interesting to note that the word “font” has the same linguistic origin as “fount”.

​​Acceptable Ways to Phrase Fount of Knowledge

You can use the phrase “fount of knowledge” to describe anything or anyone acting as a source of considerable knowledge — like a teacher, smart person in your life, a library, or a particular book.

If you have grown used to the variation “font of knowledge”, you can remind yourself that “fount” is essentially a shortened version of “fountain”. As water flows from a fountain, knowledge flows from the “fount” in question.

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