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I looked at the origins of

hy·poc·ri·sy   1175–1225; Middle English ipocrisie < Old French < Late Latin hypocrisis < Greek hypókrisis play acting, equivalent to hypokrī́ ( nesthai ) to play a part, explain ( hypo- hypo- + krī́nein to distinguish, separate) + -sis -sis; h- (reintroduced in 16th century) < Latin and Greek


crit·ic   1575–85; < Latin criticus < Greek kritikós skilled in judging (adj.), critic (noun), equivalent to krī́t ( ēs ) judge, umpire ( krī́ ( nein ) to separate, decide + -tēs agent suffix) + -ikos -ic

and saw that they both have same word 'krī́' but I can't make the connection.

A critic separates and judges i.e. Looking at the source-code by dividing it into smaller pieces and looking through each part carefully.

But then what does a hypocrite do? Separate less than is needed? I must be missing some other Greek terms that give the entire word its meaning...

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Acting is a form of criticism? Maybe the hypo- (meaning under) implies the opposite, so acting is a form of flattery. – Matt E. Эллен Mar 11 '12 at 10:27
I also asked about this, though on the wrong website: ell.stackexchange.com/q/30430/8712 – Timere Oct 31 '15 at 0:06
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The prefix hypo means low or less and krī́ is separate. From the Online Etymology Dictionary: "The sense evolution in Attic Greek is from 'separate gradually' to 'answer' to 'answer a fellow actor on stage' to 'play a part.'" So low or less separation -->'separate gradually'. Separating understanding from ignorance or truth from fiction is answering. How this got specialized to simply answering an actor on the stage is hard to imagine, but there were other words for answer, so it's likely that this use simply fell out of favour everywhere except the stage. Once the meaning of speaking on stage was established, it's pretty clear that a hypocrite is an actor, pretending to be one thing while really being another.

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  • hypobaric, hyperbaric
  • hypocatharsis, hypercatharsis
  • hypochloraemia, hyperchloraemia
  • hypochromia, hyperchromia
  • hypocritical, hypercritical
  • hypogamous, hypergamous
  • hypoglycaemia, hyperglycaemia
  • hypokinesia, hyperkinesia
  • hypomania, hypermania
  • hyponym, hypernym
  • hypoplasia, hyperplasia
  • hypostatic, hyperstatic
  • hypotension, hypertension
  • hypothermal, hyperthermal
  • hypothermia, hyperthermia
  • hypothermic, hyperthermic
  • hypotonic, hypertonic
  • hypotrophy, hypertrophy
  • hypotypic, hypertypic
  • hypoventilation, hyperventilation

Seen as just another of the many hypo-/hyper- pairs, we see that hypercritical means to be over-critical of something, and hypocritical is its antonym: being under-critical of something.

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I cannot make the connection between "being not enough critical" and "being overly self praising / pretending to be different". – laggingreflex Mar 11 '12 at 20:38
@laggingreflex: Think of hypo as meaning lacking, and critical as judgement. The hypocrite fails to apply proper judgement to his own conduct. Your extension in meaning to suppose a hypocrite is overly self-praising is a personal interpretation - it's not part of the meaning as generally understood by all, even though a hypocrite may in fact also display such behaviour. – FumbleFingers Mar 11 '12 at 23:43
@FumbleFingers It isn't personal! Google tells me the same thing "professing feelings or virtues one does not have;". The only way I can see your definition fit the word is when a hypocrite fails to apply proper judgement only when he's praising himself; compared to an idiot who does it all the time. – laggingreflex Mar 12 '12 at 3:33
@laggingreflex: Well, you insist on seeing erroneously self-praising as central to the meaning of the word. Personally I think hypocrisy more commonly means either criticising others for shortcomings that (directly or indirectly) one also has, or praising value systems one doesn't in fact uphold. Your meaning I associate more with sanctimony (though I accept that anyone defining sanctimony would probably use the word hypocrisy). But the meaning of words shift over time - I was only trying to show a possible way to view the etymology of hypocrisy, if you wanted to use it. – FumbleFingers Mar 12 '12 at 12:31
@FumbleFingers Oh I wasn't insisting on it, I was just trying to point out it isn't just my personal interpretation. But thanks, "criticizing others for shortcomings that one also has" makes much more sense to me. – laggingreflex Mar 13 '12 at 2:12

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