This word originates from the Greek hupokrites, meaning "an actor on the stage, a pretender, a dissembler". The two halves of the word have passed into modern English as hypo-, "under" or "below", and criticize. The complete Greek word was used in the sense of judging something as different than what it really was, as an actor pretending to be someone he wasn't.

Today, the word implies a person who "acts" his ethics, morals, or beliefs one way in front of others and a completely different way in private. It's never used as a compliment.

Hyp"o*crite (?), n. [F., fr. L. hypocrita, Gr. one who plays a part on the stage, a dissembler, feigner. See Hypocrisy.]

One who plays a part; especially, one who, for the purpose of winning approbation of favor, puts on a fair outside seeming; one who feigns to be other and better than he is; a false pretender to virtue or piety; one who simulates virtue or piety.

The hypocrite's hope shall perish. Job viii. 13.

I dare swear he is no hypocrite, but prays from his heart. Shak.

Syn. -- Deceiver; pretender; cheat. See Dissembler.

 

© Webster 1913.

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