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

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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 However, even as the face of an upcoming Marvel film that’s nearly guaranteed to make a cultural impact, Liu remains less than sanctimonious about his activism in the field. NBC News, 1 June 2021 One of the things that history is good for is puncturing our sanctimonious self-satisfaction about our own moral rectitude. David Marchese, New York Times, 31 May 2021 The struggle for racial justice won’t be won by hollow and sanctimonious corporate virtue signaling that overlooks any guarantees of material gains. Errol Schweizer, Forbes, 20 Apr. 2021 Delivered like a cutesy kids' tune but sung with an underlying anxiety, Prince demonstrated that protest songs directed at presidents don't have to be dull, sanctimonious affairs. Joe Lynch, Billboard, 21 Apr. 2016 Why not take the more interesting (if challenging) route of explaining how the best films of the past surpass today’s sanctimonious films? Armond White, National Review, 31 Mar. 2021 Coming 2 America’s father-son plot obviously parodies the sanctimonious sentimentality of The Lion King (Disney’s anthropomorphic spectacles and especially Beyoncé’s patronizing Black Is King iteration). Armond White, National Review, 12 Mar. 2021 The longstanding, sanctimonious network guideline of not showing yahoos running on the field should end. Marc Bona, cleveland, 8 Feb. 2021 My general take is my son's father-in-law is pretty much sanctimonious beyond all peradventure. The Washington Post, 27 Mar. 2020

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.

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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

6 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Sanctimonious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for sanctimonious



English Language Learners Definition of sanctimonious

formal + disapproving : pretending to be morally better than other people


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