Can you please tell me the word, term or phrase for not practising what you are preaching.

Also, if possible, the word, term or phrase for someone who does so.

I am not looking for hypocrisy or hypocrite but something more specific.

  • 24
    Hypocrisy and hypocrite are exactly what you're looking for. I don't imagine how it could get any more specific... Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 18:54
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    I'm not sure how you could get more specific than "hypocrite", seeing as the example you gave is the definition of hypocrisy: "Hypocrite: 1. a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs." -Dictionary.com Do you perhaps want a more colloquial term? Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 18:55
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    Under some circumstances a false flag operative fits, but hypocrisy is hard to beat here. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_flag Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 18:59
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    Please explain exactly why hypocrisy / hypocrite are unsuitable for your purpose, since (as other commenters have noted) their definitions appear to fit your criteria perfectly. As for identifying those who do not practise what they preach, I would imagine that every person who has had the ability to speak has been guilty of this.
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 20:00
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it rules out the most appropriate answer. Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 23:36

7 Answers 7


If you really believe in practicing what you preach, but periodically or for an extended period of time you openly fail to practice it anyway, then I suppose that your conduct can be distinguished from hypocrisy, which Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) defines as

a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; esp. : the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion

Instead, you might refer to your conduct as straying, in the sense of the Eleventh Collegiate's definitions (f) and (g) of the verb stray:

f : to wander accidentally from a fixed or chosen rout g : ERR, SIN

or lapsing, in the sense of the Eleventh Collegiate's definition 1(a) of the verb lapse:

to fall from an attained and usu. high level (as of morals or manners) to one much lower; also : to depart from an accepted pattern or standard.

You might even refer to yourself (for Biblical resonance) as "a prodigal not yet returned."

For these alternative terms to describe your situation more accurately than hypocrisy does, however, your conduct and your intentions must satisfy several crucial conditions: (1) an absence of feigning or false appearance, (2) a genuine belief in the rightness of the practice you have preached, and (3) a longing to return to proper practice that is strong enough to draw you back from your straying, lapse, or prodigality. And even if you do pass muster on those three criteria, if you continue to preach what you have ceased to practice during your period of erring conduct, without acknowledging and condemning the gap between your theory and your practice, the term hypocrisy still seems highly applicable to your situation.

At the level of everyday office procedures (for example), it might seem too harsh to characterize a boss who makes everyone else submit TPS reports with cover sheets but declines to follow that policy him- or herself as being hypocritical. But it certainly isn't too harsh to say that such a boss has a double standard. Again, from the Eleventh Collegiate:

double standard 2 : a set of principles that applies differently and usu. more rigorously to one group of people or circumstances than to another ...

  • _________Nice Research___________- Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 14:24

Consider the phrase or saying:

"Do as I say, not as I do."


I think sanctimony ( sanctimonious) can fit the context you are describing:

  • feigned piety or righteousness; hypocritical devoutness or high-mindedness.

Or as a more general term:

Janus -faced:

  • marked by deliberate deceptiveness especially by pretending one set of feelings and acting under the influence of another.

Source: www.thefreedictionary.com

  • Someone who is nor practicing what they are preaching may or may not be sanctimonious about it. Sanctimonious does not mean "not practicing what you are preaching". Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 10:12

Some idiomatic expressions close to your Question:

He's not walking the talk.

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/walk_the_walk and http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/walk_the_talk

Big words, small works.

And in Shakespeare's Richard III:

Fear not, my lord, we will not stand to prate; Talkers are no good doers: be assured We come to use our hands and not our tongues.

  • Those are close, but not quite on the mark. The expressions you cite relate more to someone who fails to live up to their promises than to someone whose actions contradict their words.
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 1:22


CYNICAL (the OED) adj. Concerned only with one’s own interests and typically disregarding accepted standards in order to achieve them: "Some people regard the governor's visit to the hospital as a cynical attempt to win votes." "A cynical manipulation of public opinion."


"Coherence can be measured by the shortest distance between what you say and what you do."

Incoherence - "The quality of being incoherent." http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/incoherence

Other choices might be "inconsistency" and "inconsistent". Inconsistent or incoherent behavior.


A phrase I've heard in this context is:

He talked the talk, but he didn't walk the walk


The adjectives, double-faced and two-faced, the latter being more common, are often used as synonyms for hypocrite. They refer to a person who has two-faces, and suggests that the person is deceitful as well as being insincere.

I am interpreting the following OP's request

Also, if possible, the word, term or phrase for someone who does so.

meaning a person who does "practice what they preach", but it is worded ambiguously and it appears I am the only user (up to now) who has identified two separate requests.

The opposite of a two-faced person might be a person of principles, a person who has a strong moral code and remains loyal to their ideals, a person whose actions do not contradict their words.

Principled (of a person or their behavior) acting in accordance with morality and showing recognition of right and wrong. (OED) moral, ethical, virtuous, righteous, upright, upstanding, high-minded, honorable, honest, incorruptible

  • I don't recall ever seeing or hearing the term “double-faced” applied to people rather than fabric or boards (aside from here), but of course “two-faced” is quite common and I think has the meaning you mean to assign to “double-faced”. Commented Nov 20, 2014 at 15:53

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