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Encyclopaedic Knowledge

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Reid: Tardive dyskinesia.
Morgan: Once more for those of us who don't have an encyclopedic memory?
Criminal Minds, "Derailed"

Some characters just seem to know a little of everything. It doesn't matter what the subject is, they can rattle off a couple of facts on the subject. They might not have much depth of knowledge, but they certainly have breadth. The possessor of this knowledge doesn't have to be alive in the traditional sense. Robots, AIs, sentient books and the like count as well.

Sometimes these little tidbits can serve as a Chekhov's Gun when the information comes in handy later, sometimes they'll provide just the right details needed right then to solve a problem, and sometimes they'll just sound like Non Sequiturs. This trope is often used to make a character's intelligence more than just an Informed Ability. It can also be an aspect of Mr. Exposition.

Note: This isn't for characters who think they know everything. They need to actually have real, accurate knowledge. It also is not for characters who just know everything about one subject, such as history, maths or automotive repair. They need to have a little knowledge about everything.

See also Omnidisciplinary Scientist, Renaissance Man, Elite School Means Elite Brain.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Tsubasa Hanekawa from Bakemonogatari doesn't know "everything," she just knows what she knows. Which seems to be nearly everything — not surprising of the top student and class rep.
  • Dr. STONE: Senku seems to know everything there is to know about chemistry, physics, engineering, and math, and easily surpasses any other character in his knowledge of biology (though he's still not as good with medicine as a real doctor with proper equipment would be).
  • Sheska from Fullmetal Alchemist remembers every little thing she reads, logically resulting in Encyclopedic Knowledge being mixed with a good dose of Human Data Storage.
  • Miyuki Takara from Lucky Star always seems to have information relevant to the subject of conversation. It's lampshaded by her friends how much she knows about things they don't learn at school, and Miyuki herself admits that she loves to learn things in her spare time.
  • William and Sherlock of Moriarty the Patriot both qualify for this trope:
    • There seems to be nothing William can't consult on: growing flowers, math, criminal activities, drugs, violins, England's many accents—he seems to know something of everything.
    • Sherlock can rattle of the most random of facts about nearly anything at no prompting. Just don't ask him to solve William's math problems.

    Comic Books 
  • Genius Jones: A boy who was stranded on an island for several years with a library's worth of books he memorized. After being rescued, he would use his knowledge to solve mysteries for a dime apiece.
  • Fables has an odd example in Bufkin the flying monkey; he is the librarian of the vast Business Office and can perfectly remember where every book is stored and everything he's ever read (and he reads a lot). However, he's extremely goofy and generally lacking in foresight, self-control, and social graces (a Running Gag is that he throws poo at people and needs to be reminded that his fecal matter is not an appropriate topic of conversation). Consequently, he's comic relief until he ends up trapped in the Business Office with Baba Yaga, her three One-Man Army henchmen and an escaped Djinn, at which time Beware the Silly Ones comes into full effect.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Kung Fu Panda, Po has an impressive knowledge of martial arts lore and philosophy, although the TV series has him realizing that there is far more to learn.

    Films — Live-Action  
  • In the Disney movie The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, a college student gets all the knowledge contained in a computer's data banks (mostly filled with educational material) and represents his school in a College Bowl type competition. What he doesn't realize is that the computer also had a criminal organization's records of its illegal activities. Hilarity Ensues.

  • Encyclopedia Brown got his nickname by knowing so much about so many subjects that he was like a walking encyclopedia.
  • Jacques Paganel in Jules Verne's In Search of the Castaways.
  • In The Dresden Files, the girl Harry calls "Ivy" is The Archive of all magical knowledge. If you write it down, she can see it.
  • DV-9 in Galaxy of Fear. Well, he is a research droid.
  • Ignatius Prindable in Don't Call Me Ishmael! is mostly interested in math and biology, but he tends to rattle off random facts about all kinds of different topics even if they have nothing to do with what the characters are talking about.
  • Kazuhiko Kozuka "of Socials and Sciences" in Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note has the tendency to provide exposition on bits of factoid.
  • Averted by Sherlock Holmes, who specifically warns against storing vast amounts of useless knowledge, comparing it to a man buying planks of any size rather than those that will fit into the lumberroom. However, his knowledge comes across as this trope instead as there is always some link to criminology.

    Live Action TV 
  • Bones has Mr. Nigel-Murray who spouts off random facts as a way to keep himself focused.
  • John Doe, for supernatural reasons. Supposedly he is actually omniscient, but in practice his knowledge is limited to things that could be learned via research.
  • In Chuck, the Intersect acts as this with government information, martial arts, hacking skill and linguistic abilities, to name a few fields.
  • Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory knows just about everything (as long as it isn't pop culture related, or about driving, or about social interaction), and does not hesitate to point it out, whether he is asked or not.
    • He at least likes to think he knows everything, but he's shown clear faults in the field of Biology and such. It's implied that he gets most of the non-Physics related information off the Internet.
  • Reid from Criminal Minds does this, to the point of irritating the other characters. Because he reads quickly and often, has an eidetic memory, and is particularly fond of statistics, he simply pulls from his memory whatever statistic the situation calls for. Morgan even lampshades it in the episode "Derailed":
    Reid: Tardive dyskinesia.
    Morgan: Once more for those of us who don't have an encyclopedic memory?
  • CSI. Two words: Gil Grissom. Ray and DB have gotten into the act a little bit since Grissom's departure, but they can't compete with Gil.
  • Mac from CSI: NY is another case. It doesn't matter what unusual hobby the victim had, Mac is well versed in it.
  • Cheers has Cliff Clavin, who mixes this trope with Little Known Facts and a dash of Feigning Intelligence, leaving everyone never quite sure whether the latest bit of trivia is one of the accurate facts or not.
  • Barney Miller: Detective Arthur Dietrich can always be counted on to know more than anyone else in the precinct about any obscure topic.

  • Vivian Stanshall's Rawlinson End stories feature Reg Smeeton, whose encyclopedic knowledge of trivia is triggered by word association, e.g., when he hears the word "shrewd", he rattles off facts about shrews. Of course, nobody ever listens to him, and his inner monologue consists of complex chains of association that all lead to the conclusion "me = zero". This is true in the LP, film and literary versions as well.

    Tabletop RPG 
  • The New World of Darkness: The Trope Namer is the "Encyclopedic Knowledge" merit, which gives the character a chance to remember useful factoids about any situation they find themselves in.
  • Pathfinder lets Bards become this thanks to the Bardic Knowledge ability. In 1st edition, it gives Bards a bonus to Knowledge skills and lets them use a Knowledge skill even if they haven't invested in it, while in 2nd edition it gives a special Lore skill that can be used to Recall Knowledge on any topic but can't be used to Earn Income. The Loremaster and Storyteller archetypes and the Thaumaturge class can get similar skills in 2nd edition.
  • Savants in Warhammer 40,000 tend to be characterised like this, especially in the related novels.

    Video Games 

    Web Original 
  • Noriko Null from Beyond the Impossible. In addition to being superhumanly smart, every single information known to mankind has been uploaded into her brain. And every new information is upgraded about once a month, provided she's on the planet.
  • While the hosts of Fat, French and Fabulous trade off who researches and presents the week's topic, both seem to be able to reference and explain highly-specific concepts off the top of their heads, such as Pigovian taxes and cognatic primogeniture.

    Western Animation 
  • In every episode of The Magic School Bus, Dorothy Ann provides information about the topic of the day from her research.
    • Though since she IS only 9 or 10, she occasionally just reads it out of whatever book she has currently pulled out of her shoulder bag.
  • There is also "Mr. Know-it-all", a recurring sketch from one of the Rocky and Bullwinkle series. Actually a parody, as Bullwinkle (who plays Mr. Know-it-all) has knowledge that is less than encyclopedic.
    • A more straightforward example is Mr. Peabody from the "Peabody's Improbable History" segments of the same show.
  • Tom on The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan, most notably in episodes 14 and 16.
  • The Transformers have the Autobot Rewind, whose entire personality shtick is that he loves collecting trivial factoids about anything and everything.
  • One of Ben's transformations from Ben 10: Omniverse, Brainstorm has an IQ of 1000000000000000000000000000000. It's...fairly safe to assume someone with an IQ that high would qualify for this.
  • Ready Jet Go!: Face 9000 is a talking computer who knows everything about science. He uses his extensive knowledge to teach the kids about science.

Alternative Title(s): Encyclopedic Knowledge, Encyclopediac Knowledge, Encyclopaediac Knowledge