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 The longstanding, sanctimonious network guideline of not showing yahoos running on the field should end. Marc Bona, cleveland, "How did CBS do with its Super Bowl LV coverage of Chiefs-Buccaneers game?," 8 Feb. 2021 My general take is my son's father-in-law is pretty much sanctimonious beyond all peradventure. The Washington Post, "Carolyn Hax Live: 'Subs can save a game, even coming in late off the bench.'," 27 Mar. 2020 The angry-crusader angle revealed sanctimonious media self-congratulation at its most arrogant yet maudlin, and its sacrilegious offense was compounded by the aesthetic offense of its dreary indie-movie visual style. Armond White, National Review, "In By the Grace of God, Insight Surpasses PC Righteousness," 18 Oct. 2019 The furniture seemed innocent, sanctimonious, a coven of children wrongly accused. New York Times, "‘The Exhibition of Persephone Q,’ by Jessi Jezewska Stevens: An Excerpt," 5 Mar. 2020 That is not to suggest the novel is a catalog of horrors or a sanctimonious lecture. Rumaan Alam, The New Republic, "What’s So Funny About the End of the World?," 13 Mar. 2020 And before American fans get all sanctimonious, there have been problems in Major League Soccer, as well. Nancy Armour, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Fox Sports sends message that bigotry and hate won't be tolerated or excused," 27 Nov. 2019

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

18 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Sanctimonious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.

Style: MLA
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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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