Is there a single word that means "just for show", meaning that someone is doing something outwardly to trick the world into thinking they are something that they are not?

  • 1
    Look up synonyms for 'hypocrisy'.
    – Mitch
    Nov 28, 2014 at 18:31
  • 2
    Facade, window dressing.
    – Drew
    Mar 25, 2016 at 23:43
  • 1
    Ostentatious (ostentatiousness).
    – Drew
    Mar 26, 2016 at 1:59
  • "For show" seems pretty good to me.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 26, 2016 at 12:20
  • 'Ostentatious' seems very near, but can also mean 'done in a showy way', where there may be some primary motive besides to impress. 'Pretentious' implies insincerity as well as desire to impress, as does 'meretricious'. If you were looking for an adjectival phrase, 'superficial and insincere' might do. Since this question was asked, a new meaning of 'performative' has become popular: 'done or expressed for the sake of appearance' (OED, dating to 1996 and 2014). This is the opposite meaning from the previous one in philosophy, where 'I promise' is performative only when sincere. Apr 18 at 17:36

9 Answers 9


"Ostensibly" is a good choice.

From Oxford Dictionaries online: "Apparently or purportedly, but perhaps not actually"



I believe there is no single word meaning "saying or doing something just for the show".

If you're looking for a noun defining the person who does it, I suggest

  • "a phoney" - an insincere or pretentious person (TFD)

  • "a beguiler" - someone who leads you to believe something that is not true (TFD)

  • "a pseudo (noun)" - a pseudo-scholar, a pseudo-intellectual. (a pseudo-intellectual would be someone who pretends to know more than he actually does and exhibits memorized information ostentatiously)


If you're into urban language at all, poser fits the bill.I believe you will also find it in several dictionaries defined as such.


There is a term that comes close to this meaning:

"Face value"

If something is taken at face value then it is evaluated based on its outward appearance.

If you are looking for a more literal meaning:




A decortaion by its very definition is "just for show" and an ornament is specifically not supposed to be used, existing again "only for show"

If you mean the ideal of being showy but not having any depth, that is a person who care more for appearances than real things, then suitable words would be:

"Shallow", "Pretentious", "Fake" or "Image obsessed".

  1. disingenuous

    not candid or sincere

    disingenuous could be used to describe someone is doing something outwardly to trick the world into thinking they are something that they are not.

  2. superficial

    existing or occurring at or on the surface

    superficial as well can be used to describe someone is doing something outwardly to trick the world into thinking they are something that they are not.


A ruse, charade, subterfuge.


a trick or act that is used to fool someone, a wily subterfuge


His donation of millions to local charities was a ruse to mask his underhanded dealings with the scum of society.


an empty or deceptive act or pretense


Her attention to the duchess was a charade to garner the affections of the woman's wealthy husband for herself.

  • Thank you, "pretend" was the word I was looking for! May 10, 2022 at 14:56

Sanctimonious cambridge dict. ​showing that you ​believe you are ​morally ​better, or more ​religious:

sanctimonious remarks

Sanctimonious m-w dict 1 : hypocritically pious or devout 2 obsolete : possessing sanctity : holy


Consider, mealymouth

mealymouthed (or mealy-mouthed)

: not plain and straightforward : devious a mealymouthed politician

Example of mealymouthed in a sentence: a mealymouthed compliment from a jealous competitor



That person may be called a popinjay


  • Can you add links and quotes to your answer to show where others have used the word in that way? Perhaps a definition?
    – jejorda2
    Feb 18, 2016 at 15:26

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.