Is there a verb or adverb to describe the overly friendly speech or tone of someone who has said something bad about you behind your back but doesn't know that you know?

  • 1
    They've "backstabbed" you.
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 17, 2014 at 16:35
  • Related.
    – tchrist
    Sep 17, 2014 at 18:45
  • 2
    What aspect of this story do you want a word for? What actions are you seeking to describe in this context? What statement are you trying to make that’s missing this word? I don’t think it’s possible to describe all of these actions together in a single verb: ① Someone badmouths you, ② You get tipped off somehow, ③ They call you, ④ They speak to you in an obsequious tone. Sep 19, 2014 at 22:43

5 Answers 5


Hypocrite, meaning he who speaks with forked tongue, or perhaps 'two-faced' is a better fit, although I have to say several other choice expressions do spring to mind, not least being slimeball. Or perhaps more kindly, coward.


you can also use the words phony-baloney or mealymouthed


You may be best served by a nice descriptive adjective in this case. Here are a couple that fit:



too sweet or sentimental : sweet or sentimental in a way that does not seem sincere or genuine
Source: Definition of “saccharine” at merriam-webster.com



  1. causing or tending to cause disgust or aversion through excess:
    a perfume of cloying sweetness.

  2. overly ingratiating or sentimental.

Source: Definition of “cloying” at dictionary.com

Either can be made into adverbs in the usual way (by adding “-ly”), the latter more comfortably than the former (though “cloyingly” should probably always have “sweet” tacked onto it in use).

  • Saccharine is a great one too. I don't think cloying stands on its own for this, but is a nice modifier or target for modification.
    – webmarc
    Sep 19, 2014 at 23:09

ingratiating - "intended to gain approval or favor; sycophantic"

Also, bamboo's "two-faced" is spot on.

  • So far the best. Now I'm looking for an adverb to describe the way my mother, oops did I say that? I mean anyone's actions when they act like that on the phone to me.
    – Jack Jenks
    Sep 19, 2014 at 21:45
  • @Jack Consider adding this detail to your question so that others are sure to see it. You seem to want to say, “She’s always speaking to me ______ly.” Is that correct? Sep 19, 2014 at 22:47
  • “Ingratiating” is not a good fit for this situation. It is used when someone is genuinely attempting to curry favor with someone else. Sep 19, 2014 at 22:50
  • 1
    I disagree on 2 counts: 1) the mother, er, person IS genuinely trying to curry favor, it's just DESPITE the level respect of respect afforded to the subject of attention instead of BECAUSE of the level of respect. 2) ingratiate doesn't imply motive other than to curry favor, whether in context of an eager beaver at work targeting a boss, or a prison inmate targeting a guard. Both are behaving ingratiatingly (hey OP, there's your adverb).
    – webmarc
    Sep 19, 2014 at 23:07
  • @webmarc I suppose it’s okay. It doesn’t really seem like the person in OP’s case is that interested in OP’s favor. It seems more like passive-aggressivity to me. As to your latter point, I think the broad applicability of the word to people of any esteem in the speaker’s eyes is a minus, not a plus. Sep 19, 2014 at 23:13

Regarding the vocal tone of the person in question, you could use the word false.

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