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Is there a word for faking kindness/hospitality to sound more tactful and decent than you really are (which could be categorized as some sort of hypocrisy)?

For example, saying: Pay us a visit sometime! when you don't really mean it (you are just trying to sound hospitable).

I know this is not a nice thing to do but sometimes people tend to do it, so I thought it would be useful to know if there is a term for describing such an action or to find the closest possible word or phrase in case there isn't one.

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Note - in English you often use the phrase: "going through the motions" in this context. "They offered us tea and cake and platitudes, they were just going through the motions..." or "they were just going through the motions of hospitality..." – Joe Blow Aug 12 '14 at 9:27
There's certainly a better adjective than fake for this: insincere. – hippietrail Aug 12 '14 at 11:46
In Japanese this is called tatemae, as opposed to honne, which is like "what you actually think" or something along those lines. Searching briefly reveals that these are sometimes used in English contexts so that might be a starting point. Also see this question asking about the concept. – Casey Aug 12 '14 at 14:58
What about politeness? It's not unusual for some situations to call for pro forma offers you are supposed to decline or questions you are supposed to answer in a certain way. Whether they are “fake” or genuine is not even relevant, they are just what they are, conventions. – Gala Aug 13 '14 at 8:17
I know what word you're looking for (you can probably guess how I know) and I don't think it has an exact equivalent in English, probably because it's not really part of the culture. – Mehrdad Aug 13 '14 at 10:37

10 Answers 10

up vote 13 down vote accepted

I would suggest: perfunctory

According to dictionary.reference.com:

per·func·to·ry adjective

  1. performed merely as a routine duty; hasty and superficial: perfunctory courtesy.

  2. lacking interest, care, or enthusiasm; indifferent or apathetic: In his lectures he reveals himself to be merely a perfunctory speaker.

This might not fit as a single word for:

a word for faking kindness/hospitality to sound more tactful and descent than you really are

but you could use perfunctory as an adjective and describe your situation.

I could see through his perfunctory kindness/hospitality.

After some further research, I would recommend you to take a look at this definition of perfunctory here, especially the several examples under it's usage. I found them quite interesting. For instance, these two:

  • Hers was no perfunctory task; a mother could not have displayed greater interest in her children- "Deaconesses in Europe" by Jane M. Bancroft

  • They were not perfunctory, but genuinely genuine- "Priestley in America" by Edgar F. Smith

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What a fun word! – MegaMark Aug 12 '14 at 8:06
It is a good word, but it doesn't actually answer the question. "Perfunctory" does not mean "fake hospitality". Perfunctory is an adjective that can be applied to "hospitality" ... but then so is "fake". – GreenAsJade Aug 12 '14 at 8:56
Good one, "nominal" is similar but perfunctory is of course much better in the context of hospitality. – Joe Blow Aug 12 '14 at 9:26

I'm not sure if there's a single word for fake-niceness as you describe it (and if someone here is able to find that single word, I'd be happy to take down my post). There are some words, however, that describe the emotions behind it:

If someone is being nice and they mean it, usually you say that their generosity or hospitality is sincere or genuine.


If someone is being nice, but they're faking it, usually you say that their generosity or hospitality is insincere and you can characterize them as disingenuous.

If you're trying to reply back to the person and question their duplicitous intentions, you can usually reply back to,

Pay us a visit sometime!

by saying,

Why are you feigning hospitality when you don't really mean it?

Or if you wanted to talk about this person assuming he's a man,

He sounds very hospitable every time we see him, however, his hospitality is contrived

Phew, so many English words and not a single one to condense "fake-nice"!

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Thanks man, your post was very helpful (+1). Don't take it down! – Mohammad Sanei Aug 12 '14 at 8:21
This is a good answer because it addresses the actual question: "is there a word that means fake hospitality?" instead of supplying synonyms for the word "fake". – GreenAsJade Aug 12 '14 at 8:55

The man wants a single word; let's give him a single word!


Or how do you like

Hospicritical (or, as @Cruncher says, Hospicrasy)

The nice thing about creating words out of thin air is you get to make up their definitions too. Or, to paraphrase the ever eloquent Humpty Dumpty: when I invent a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.

In this case, the words are nouns, which we choose precisely to mean:

Insincere hospitality or disingenuous offers of hospitality

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I like hoaxpitality, but you should probably mention that these are neologisms, rather than established words. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 12 '14 at 11:39
Good point (it may not be obvious to people who have English as a second language). Done. – Dan Bron Aug 12 '14 at 11:48
I would like Hospicrasy better :) – Cruncher Aug 12 '14 at 14:40
Ha! That's awesome. I'll add it to my answer. – Dan Bron Aug 12 '14 at 14:46

In UK English a Platitude is something employed to bulk up a sentence with politeness and extra words, but runs the risk of sounding false.

The dictionary definition may be different, but I think this is the generally accepted use of the word.


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Insincerity seems like the one word answer you are seeking.

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Welcome to EL&U. It is not sufficient to give a one-line answer on this site; answers are expected to provide explanations that could stand alone, including examples and citations as may be appropriate. I encourage you to visit the help center for additional guidance. – choster Aug 12 '14 at 19:12

You might try... dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdisinˈjenyo͞oəs/ adjective adjective: disingenuous

not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does.
synonyms:   insincere, dishonest, untruthful, false, deceitful, duplicitous, lying, mendacious; More
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dis·in·gen·u·ous (dsn-jny-s)

  1. Not straightforward or candid; insincere or calculating: "an ambitious, disingenuous, philistine, and hypocritical operator, who ... exemplified ... the most disagreeable traits of his time" (David Cannadine).
  2. Pretending to be unaware or unsophisticated; faux-naïf.

disin·genu·ous·ly adv.
disin·genu·ous·ness n.

Usage Note: The meaning of disingenuous has been shifting about lately, as if people were unsure of its proper meaning. Generally, it means "insincere" and often seems to be a synonym of cynical ....

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

dis•in•gen•u•ous (ˌdɪs ɪnˈdʒɛn yu əs)
lacking in frankness, candor, or sincerity; insincere.
dis`in•gen′u•ous•ly, adv.
dis`in•gen′u•ous•ness, n.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

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obsequious comes to mind, like the Golem in "Lord of the Rings." I know it's not pitch perfect and it doesn't convey how it makes us feel when we know an invitation is not heartfelt. And yet, heartless doesn't do it, either.

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I would say that they feigned goodwill. Not a word, but a phrase.

And as they left, Nesbit stood at the door feigning goodwill, "See you soon! Come back anytime!"

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I would say you are looking for the antonym of genuine which can be found Here

Antonyms for genuine dishonest false insincere invalid unreal untrustworthy affected counterfeit deceiving deceptive illegitimate

Source: Thesaurus.com

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The poster is not looking for the opposite of genuine. They are looking a word that is the opposite of geniune hospitality. Your answer supplies modifiers to apply to the word hospitality, but doesn't supply a word that means fake hospitality. – GreenAsJade Aug 12 '14 at 8:54

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