Word of the Day

: July 24, 2024


adjective sank-tuh-MOH-nee-us

What It Means

Someone described as sanctimonious behaves as though they are morally superior to others. Language or behavior that suggests the same kind of moral superiority can also be described as sanctimonious.

// While the subject matter was interesting, I found the presenter’s sanctimonious tone rather distracting.

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sanctimonious in Context

“Smart and sincere but never sanctimonious, the awareness-raising drama doubles as a public service message of sorts.” — Peter Debruge, Variety, 13 Mar. 2024

Did You Know?

There’s nothing sacred about sanctimonious—at least not anymore. But in the early 1600s, the English adjective was still sometimes used to describe someone truly holy or pious, a sense at an important remove from today’s use describing someone who acts or behaves as though they are morally superior to others. (The now-obsolete “pious” sense recalls the meaning of the word’s Latin parent, sanctimonia, meaning “holiness” or “sanctity.”) Shakespeare used both the “holy” and “holier-than-thou” senses of sanctimonious in his work, referring in The Tempest to the “sanctimonious” (that is, “holy”) ceremonies of marriage, and in Measure for Measure to “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 inconvenient.)

Test Your Vocabulary

Rearrange the letters to form a somewhat formal noun phrase that refers to a very private room or place: NRIEN MCANSTU



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