sanc·​ti·​mo·​nious | \ ˌsaŋ(k)-tə-ˈmō-nē-əs How to pronounce sanctimonious (audio) , -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

Other Words from sanctimonious

sanctimoniously adverb
sanctimoniousness noun

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 Its inevitably heartstrings-tugging relationships and its sanctimonious sense of purpose are leavened with the puckish spirit of Saturday-morning cartoons, if not their playfulness. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 13 July 2022 Vegans and vegetarians are aware of their reputation as sanctimonious killjoys—so aware that nearly half of the non-meat-eating participants in one recent study declined to promote vegetarian options when in the company of unsympathetic meat eaters. Michelle Nijhuis, The Atlantic, 22 June 2022 For four years, Trump had tested and tried his sanctimonious No. 2, but Pence never broke. Susan B. Glasser, The New Yorker, 16 June 2022 Moral Money is, as its name implies, a particularly sanctimonious corner of the Financial Times. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, 27 May 2022 Spare me sanctimonious fictional characters locked in the anguish of their regretful late twenties and early thirties: May our bold heroine Selin return to campus and stir up more drama before departing abroad again. Lauren Leblanc,, 19 May 2022 No sanctimonious emphasis is required to note the irony of that message coming from a family for whom nepotism is as natural as breathing. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 19 May 2022 That sanctimonious posturing is enshrined in the Big Cherry Heritage Festival, a celebration whose entire rationale is undermined by a council member who has discovered the sordid truth of Big Cherry’s past. Washington Post, 18 Apr. 2022 Most of the ceremonies feature flickers of genuine emotion amid hours of sanctimonious, self-serving or scolding speeches. Brenda Cronin, WSJ, 22 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of sanctimonious

1603, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of sanctimonious was in 1603

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Last Updated

24 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Sanctimonious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Aug. 2022.

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