sanctimonious

play
adjective sanc·ti·mo·nious \ ˌsaŋ(k)-tə-ˈmō-nē-əs , -nyəs \

Definition of sanctimonious

1 :hypocritically pious or devout
  • a sanctimonious moralist
  • the king's sanctimonious rebuke
  • —G. B. Shaw
2 obsolete :possessing sanctity :holy

sanctimoniously

adverb

sanctimoniousness

noun

sanctimonious was our Word of the Day on 11/13/2006. Hear the podcast!

Recent Examples of sanctimonious from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sanctimonious.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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.)

First Known Use of sanctimonious

1603

Other Christian Religious Terms


SANCTIMONIOUS Defined for English Language Learners

sanctimonious

play
adjective

Definition of sanctimonious for English Language Learners

  • : pretending to be morally better than other people



Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up sanctimonious? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

all at once

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Vocabulary Quiz Returns!

  • stylized-drawing-of-woman-pole-vaulting-across-gap-to-get-trophy
  • Which is a synonym of fuliginous?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!