I'm trying to find a word that encompasses both these ideas. I thought pharisaic would be a bark up the right tree, but it appears to pertain more to hypocrisy and legalism.

Ideally the word should encapsulate the idea that some form of good is being displayed for the primary purpose of self-gain.

I understand that such an action could be hypocritical, but that word does not necessarily imply the act of doing good only for the praise it brings.

The Pharisees are a great example of this (with their ostentatious tithing), but the word named after them doesn't seem to have been applied to that aspect of their character.

  • It's an open compound, but 'false friend' is simple (though it does have a linguistic sense too). – Edwin Ashworth Feb 20 '14 at 9:26
  • "Ideally the word should encapsulate the idea that some form of good is being displayed for the primary purpose of self-gain."--Someone who has an ULTERIOR MOTIVE/ VESTED INTERESTS then. – Louel Feb 20 '14 at 20:45

Perhaps something like:

sanctimonious: hypocritically pious or devout. It's not exactly about "doing good", but I do feel it encapsulates the idea of being good (if in a religious manner) for show.


Have you considered self-serving:

serving one's own interests often in disregard of the truth or the interests of others

or sycophant:

a person who praises powerful people in order to get their approval

Pharisaical: marked by hypocritical censorious self-righteousness


This kind of person is called a "goody-goody".

adj. Affectedly sweet, good, or virtuous.

adj. n. 1. a person who is self-righteously, affectedly, or cloyingly good or virtuous.


You might want to use the term "crocodile tears".


crocodile tears: a hypocritical display of sorrow; false or insincere weeping

  1. The secretaries wept crocodile tears over the manager's dilemma.

  2. Politicians shed crocodile tears over the plight of the unemployed.

  • "crocodile tears" are, I think, different from "feigned sympathy or interest", although the motivation may be similar. – Jeffrey Kemp Feb 20 '14 at 7:57
  • How different are they exactly? From the context of the two example sentences, I think it's quite clear that the secretaries and the politicians are both feigning sympathy and interest. – Louel Feb 20 '14 at 8:13
  • @Louel Crocodile tears are limited to expressions of grief and sorrow, not necessarily sympathy or interest. You can display sympathy without grief coming into the equation at all. – Doc Feb 20 '14 at 19:17
  • But isn't the word "sympathy" ultimately from a Greek term which means "to suffer together"?. When you sympathize with someone, you are, in fact, commiserating with them. – Louel Feb 20 '14 at 20:38

Closest I can find is insincere / insincerity



How about the verb "to pander to sb's tastes" and the noun "a pander" or "a panderer"?

Definitions in the Collins English Dictionary Online:


  1. (intransitive) followed by to to give gratification (to weaknesses or desires)
  2. (archaic when transitive) to act as a go-between in a sexual intrigue (for)


  1. a person who caters for vulgar desires, esp in order to make money
  2. a person who procures a sexual partner for another; pimp

These words are very much about pleasing someone in order to gain an advantage at their expense. And payment is recognition of some sort.

The Cambridge Dictionary Online has:


to do or provide exactly what a person or group wants, especially when it is not acceptable, reasonable, or approved of, usually in order to get some personal advantage:

It's not good the way she panders to his every whim.

Political leaders almost inevitably pander to big business.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online has:


1 a) a go-between in love intrigues b) pimp

2: someone who caters to or exploits the weaknesses of others

And I have just come across the pun "a pander bear", on the Internet, defined as

a candidate running for political office who shamelessly attempts to lure in votes by making patronizing and empty concessions and shows of support for particular special interests (www.urbandictionary.com)


Conspicuous does a good job of conveying the sense of open, yet adds an air of suspicion to it.

So, perhaps conspicuous attention or conspicuous giving depending upon the actual application.

It is a direct contrast with conspicuous consumption which means spending money or resources out in the open for all to see. (And, adds an air of ostentatiousness to boot.)

But, I agree with Shisa if there is a religious component involved, sanctimonious is an excellent fit.

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