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This is not from real life, but from a movie on my local TV. A character in the movie is really bad, but when she talks with others, she pretends to be an innocent/ good woman. I want to know how to describe this kind of person.

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As mentioned in a few of the answers, the context and intention of the deception makes a difference. Can you provide more information? –  KitFox Sep 19 '11 at 16:23
    
Related: A good noun for a two faced person? –  aedia λ Sep 19 '11 at 18:11
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9 Answers 9

up vote 12 down vote accepted

A wolf in sheep's clothing is someone who tries to trick you into trusting them by presenting themselves as unthreatening, then unexpectedly attacks you.

A poser is someone who pretends to have a "better" social/intellectual/economic position than they really do. @Jay's example is slightly odd (though not uncommon), in that the supposedly "rough" background is in fact considered "better" in certain social contexts (it has more "street cred"). It's an example of inverse snobbery.

It's not clear from the question exactly what kind of "good" image our subject is presenting, what kind of "bad" reality is being concealed, or why she's doing it. Either or neither of the above might apply (but probably not both).

Other possibilities are cheat, liar, deceiver, imposter, pretender, fake, faker, fraud, sham, decoy, defrauder, dodger, double-crosser, double-dealer, trickster, charlatan, two-faced [person].

Personally, I like duplicitous (deceptive in words or action) for general use. But if it's a woman pretending to be sexually modest when I know she's not, I might call her a closet sexpot (a term of my own invention here, but which I'd expect to be understood by anyone I might say it to).

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Where is your citation for "closet sexpot"? An issue of Hollywood Confidential from 1955? :) –  JeffSahol Sep 19 '11 at 18:09
    
@JeffSahol: You think it's dated then. The two words in conjunction don't occur often enough for an NGram graph, but as this shows, sexpot itself was virtually unknown in 1955, not really gaining traction until the 70s. I suppose a right little raver or a real goer are probably more modern - I just don't move in circles where such matters are discussed openly! :) –  FumbleFingers Sep 19 '11 at 20:24
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It is worth noting that "poser" probably evolved from "poseur". –  Dereleased Sep 20 '11 at 18:10
    
@JeffSahol: My version might not occur in Google Books, but it's no different to "closet sex addict", which does. –  FumbleFingers Feb 11 '12 at 22:52
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Another word to describe such a person is hypocrite.

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A more slangy phrase is "two-faced" and probably doesn't quite fit your scenario. It often means a person who is very nice and complimentary when speaking to someone, but speaks poorly about him/her to others.

Related: back-stabber: Doesn't confront you face-to-face, instead stabs you in the back. A classic example is a co-worker who tells you that your idea is great and then tells the boss that it's awful, OR takes credit for the idea him/herself.

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If you're talking about ability or social role, like someone saying they grew up in a tough neighborhood when really they're a spoiled rich kid, I think the common slang term today is "poser". "Hypocrite" (someone else's answer") is pretty harsh and implies serious moral inconsistency, like someone loudly condemning drunkenness and then going home and secretly getting drunk himself. More formal words are "fake", "fraud", and "imposter".

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It is worth noting that "poser" probably evolved from "poseur". –  Dereleased Sep 20 '11 at 18:10
    
@Dereleased: Well, I would have guessed it came from "pose", as in "He was posing as as a policeman." As it's street slang, I would be surprised if it derived from a foreign language. But I don't claim to have done any research on that. –  Jay Oct 4 '11 at 15:06
    
I don't think it's that unbelievable, several "common" expressions evolved from dignified (or more dignified) expressions (for example, the non-word "thusly" was first used satirically by the upper crust, jeering at uneducated people who tried to sound educated and did it incorrectly), so the process of going from high-society calling others "poseurs" to the common folk calling people "posers" isn't a hard pill for me to swallow. –  Dereleased Oct 4 '11 at 17:13
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A wolf in sheep's clothing sounds appropriate.

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"Wolf in sheep's clothing" works well for some nefarious purpose; if the reason is more ego-driven I don't think it applies as well. The "expert financial advisor" who's after your account #s to steal is a wolf; the full-of-himself teenager who wants people to think he's a tough gangster is a poser. So it depends on what the actress is trying to do. –  Monica Cellio Sep 19 '11 at 15:56
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Whited sepulcher - A person inwardly corrupt or wicked but outwardly or professedly virtuous or holy.

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It sounds like you are describing a sanctimonious person. A fitting idiom might be holier-than-thou.

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The idiom "butter wouldn't melt in his/her mouth" means that someone is pretending to be innocent or naïve.

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The kids would call that frontin'.

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Welcome to English Language & Usage. We are looking for answers with explanations, and also prefer to see the results of research. If you can provide some information about your answer along those lines it will be very much appreciated. –  MετάEd Mar 17 '13 at 4:49
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protected by RegDwigнt Mar 17 '13 at 0:06

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