sanc·​ti·​mo·​nious ˌsaŋ(k)-tə-ˈmō-nē-əs How to pronounce sanctimonious (audio)
: hypocritically pious or devout
a sanctimonious moralist
the king's sanctimonious rebukeG. B. Shaw
obsolete : possessing sanctity : holy
sanctimoniously adverb
sanctimoniousness noun

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How Shakespeare Used Sanctimonious

There's nothing sacred about "sanctimonious"—at least not any more. But in the early 1600s, the English adjective was still sometimes used to describe someone truly holy or pious (a sense that recalls the meaning of the word's Latin parent, sanctimonia). Shakespeare used both the "holy" and "holier-than-thou" senses in his work, referring in The Tempest to the "sanctimonious" (that is, "holy") ceremonies of marriage, and in Measure for Measure to describe "the sanctimonious pirate that went to sea with the Ten Commandments but scraped one out of the table." (Apparently, the pirate found the restriction on stealing a bit too inconvenient.)

Examples of sanctimonious in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Most of this managed to come off both lazy and sanctimonious. David Polansky, Washington Examiner - Political News and Conservative Analysis About Congress, the President, and the Federal Government, 12 July 2024 Nope — those three sanctimonious defenders of our democracy are all down with the deep-state’s diminution of our democracy. Voice Of The People, New York Daily News, 24 June 2024 There’s never anything sanctimonious or preachy about it. Stephanie Zacharek, TIME, 21 June 2024 Of all the pillars of internet content, surely one of the strongest is the genre where people outline their morning routine in grave and sanctimonious detail. Constance Grady, Vox, 6 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for sanctimonious 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'sanctimonious.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1603, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of sanctimonious was in 1603

Dictionary Entries Near sanctimonious

Cite this Entry

“Sanctimonious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


: pretending to be devoted
sanctimoniously adverb
sanctimoniousness noun
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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