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

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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 65-minute-long panel was a sanctimonious love letter to the liberal media with only occasional reflection about how to improve themselves and win back supporters. Brian Flood, Fox News, "CNN star Brian Stelter claims 'Trump is poisoning the American people' with anti-media attacks," 6 July 2018 And policymakers from both parties think that, as the world’s attention shifts to Asia, whining, sanctimonious Europeans deserve less of their time. The Economist, "The Western alliance is in trouble," 5 July 2018 Hard to argue with that, but California's left knows a few tricks too, and the sometimes sanctimonious sanctuary movement certainly plays to the base. Steve Lopez,, "Opposition to 'sanctuary state' law gains ground, but is it a pointless political ploy?," 9 May 2018 My desire for friends outweighed my duty to uphold the sanctimonious culinary standards of my parents’ homeland. Carla Ciccone, Bon Appetit, "The “Italians Mad at Food” Twitter Account Is Too Real to My Life," 7 May 2018 For generations gay folk like me have had to listen to sanctimonious people peddle backwards notions about human nature, science, sexuality and gender roles. Billy Maddalon - Contributing Columnist, Observer Editorial Board, charlotteobserver, "'Values' bullies are killing LGBTQ children | Charlotte Observer," 3 May 2018 Yet questioning if the accord is fair to America or will forestall global warming is reliably met with sanctimonious scorn. Stewart Easterby, WSJ, "Climate Activists Are Lousy Salesmen," 25 Apr. 2018 But, first, the self-righteous sanctimonious social justice warrior late- night host Jimmy Kimmel is launching a new attack directed at yours truly. Fox News, "Gorka: Instead of learning from 2016, the press doubled down," 6 Apr. 2018 There's a sanctimonious part of me that would delight in persuading you to ignore this NCAA men's basketball tournament or, at the very least, to observe it from a jaundiced viewpoint. Jerry Brewer,, "March Madness is the NCAA's greatest hypocrisy and its best hope of salvation," 11 Mar. 2018

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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English Language Learners Definition of sanctimonious

: pretending to be morally better than other people

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Comments on sanctimonious

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


a state of commotion or excitement

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