I want to describe, in a phrase, a number of traits in a person.

I'm looking to describe a self-righteous, pious person who cannot stop bragging about her/his moral values while trying to impose her/his ideas on to those with whom she/he talks frequently. One may imagine such a person to also have related characteristics such as being highly assuming and judgmental. The main things I want to describe are the person's bragging and imposing nature. I thought of 'self-righteous bragger' but I don't think it covers it all, especially, the imposing part (or can it be said that a self-righteous person is also imposing?). 'Self-righteous imposing bragger' also doesn't sound right. Can you suggest better ways to describe all these traits in another phrase?

  • 8
    Sounds like you're describing my father-in-law, tbh.
    – Stephan B
    Jun 29, 2015 at 8:36

15 Answers 15


Sanctimonious will do.

Per Macmillan:

sanctimonious (adj., showing disapproval): used for describing someone who tries to show that they have better moral or religious principles than other people

"I was aware even as I spoke how sanctimonious I sounded."

Synonyms and related words describing arrogant and over-confident people or behaviour: arrogant, proud, conceited...

Fun story: I was once playing Pictionary, teamed up with my mom. It was her turn to draw, and she started sketching a bishop sneering down his nose from a pulpit on high. The answer was sanctimonious. We crushed the other team.

  • I'd heard of the word but didn't know its meaning. Thanks! It is a useful word to know and use.
    – C2R
    Jun 25, 2015 at 16:16
  • 2
    In English->Persian dictionaries this exactly means what the PO wants. The Persian word for it is جانماز آبکش [Janamaz-Abkesh], which literally means someone who rinses prayer rug or beads. Jun 25, 2015 at 20:21


  • marked by an air of superior piety or morality
    • having or showing the annoying attitude of people who believe that they are morally better than other people. (MW)


  • Someone who exaggerates how morally upright or pious he/she can be called pharisaic.

Pharisaic people tend to talk a lot about how devout and religious they are, but their actions don't quite measure up to their words.

  • Mysti, I do like 'holier-than-thou' and it has been suggested above. But it describes the attitude of the person rather than the person herself or himself. But yes, it's a catchy phrase all the same!
    – C2R
    Jun 25, 2015 at 16:37
  • @C2R I've occasionally heard people being referred to as "holier-than-thous". Jun 25, 2015 at 17:50
  • @Panzercrisis Okay, perhaps it'd suit some contexts. Just think we can do better than that for description purposes.
    – C2R
    Jun 25, 2015 at 18:15

An entitled or pontificating individual would share the qualities you've described.

"Entitled" (Google Query):

believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.

"Pontificate" (Google Query):

express one's opinions in a way considered annoyingly pompous and dogmatic

  • Yes, I did think of 'entitled' and even 'narcissistic'. And 'pontificate' does mean to preach, which can be quite imposing. Great suggestions!
    – C2R
    Jun 25, 2015 at 16:11
  • Actually, pontificate means to act as if one is the moral authority, the word pontiff is mostly commonly associated with the Pope of the Roman Catholic church.
    – Ben Voigt
    Jun 25, 2015 at 19:39
  • @BenVoigt Oh yes, you're right. That's its other specific meaning. What I did was connect it to 'preach' (since that was what I was actually looking for). Seems I'm not off though. 'Preach' can be used as a synonym to the meaning given above (here) - thesaurus.com/browse/pontificate?s=t
    – C2R
    Jun 26, 2015 at 1:49
  • @Othya Cool words! But can you educate me on what is Google Query? Do you mean that card that show up if you Google define ___?
    – RexYuan
    Jun 26, 2015 at 3:40
  • I'd assume so. I've never wondered, but I'm trying to find what its source is. Does Google got its own dictionary? I thought it was discontinued years ago? (edit: not trying to challenge the authority. just curious)
    – RexYuan
    Jun 26, 2015 at 3:44

I think self-righteous and braggart (not bragger) are indeed the correct terms for what you're describing. The word you are missing is overbearing, which Google currently defines as unpleasantly or arrogantly domineering.

So your complete phrase would be:

An overbearing, self-righteous braggart.

  • 'Overbearing' sounds good, especially, with the 'unpleasant' bit attached to its meaning. The phrase does fit. Thanks!
    – C2R
    Jun 25, 2015 at 16:14

If you want to convey religious (Christian) undertones, you could try using "Pharisee." Pharisaical

Pharisees were groups of Jewish "holy men" and scholars who went out of their way to get praise for how righteous and holy they were acting. They were described by Jesus as "Whitewashed tombs" (beautiful on the outside but ugly on the inside).

Matthew 23:27-28 New International Version (NIV)

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

  • Hi Josh. I meant any religious person. But this is good to know. And guess what? 'Hypocrites' and 'wicked' are what stuck!
    – C2R
    Jun 25, 2015 at 16:50
  • Every time I read about Pharisees I think of Politicians, Particularly rich democrats who want to give my money to the pore. Making up rules for the rest of us to follow which they ignore.
    – hildred
    Jun 25, 2015 at 23:17
  • Such use of the term Pharisee is alright within a purely Christian context. Otherwise it is offensive to those who consider ourselves the heirs to the actual Pharisees, not the straw-man versions of the Christian New Testament. See also hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/5134/410. Jul 1, 2015 at 10:45

How about calling them, an Officious and Sanctimonious Bigot

officious adjective: assertive of authority in an annoyingly domineering way, especially with regard to petty or trivial matters. "a policeman came to move them on, an officious, spiteful man"

• intrusively enthusiastic in offering help or advice; interfering. "an officious bystander" synonyms: self-important, bumptious, self-assertive, overbearing, overzealous, domineering, opinionated, interfering, intrusive, meddlesome, meddling


sanctimonious adjective derogatory: making a show of being morally superior to other people. "what happened to all the sanctimonious talk about putting his family first?"

synonyms: self-righteous, holier-than-thou, pious, pietistic, churchy, moralizing, preachy, smug, superior, priggish, hypocritical, insincere; informal goody-goody; "no one wants to hear your sanctimonious hot air"

Origin: early 17th century (in the sense ‘holy in character’): from Latin sanctimonia ‘sanctity’ (from sanctus ‘holy’) + -ous.


bigot noun: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.

• bigoted adjective

• bigotedly adverb

Synonyms: dogmatist, dogmatizer, partisan (also partisan), sectarian

(Merriam-Webster) @LittleEva I see! A much improved explanation. Thank you once again.

  • 2
    "Officious, sanctimonious bigot" is surely apt. But to get the attention it deserves you need to "spruce" this answer up a bit. Look at the answers (above yours) with the most votes. Notice how they are composed - they will all contain: hypertext links to definitions and supporting information i.e., dictionaries, websites, etc., direct quotations with citations from those sources. If you add these components to your answers (or questions) you will likely be rewarded with up-votes. Just trying to be helpful. :-)
    – user98990
    Jun 25, 2015 at 18:52
  • Aunt Thesaurus. Sounds heavy. I had to look up 'officious' too (after learning 'sanctimonious' today). Perhaps could be used for effect.
    – C2R
    Jun 25, 2015 at 19:14
  • @DanBron --I did not mean to imply that I found that exact phrase in Encarta. I am new to this site this week. I was trying to follow the rules as i understood them so far by making my answer succinct. Jun 25, 2015 at 21:26
  • @LittleEva--Thank you. Your response is indeed helpful and appreciated.@C2R--Thank you for responding. I like this site, enjoy helping folks and fun with words. Perhaps I jumped in too soon in my enthuisiam. Sorry didn't know about the 5 min rule Jun 25, 2015 at 21:38
  • With phrase-requests it's best to explain why a phrase is a good choice. Sometimes that is done with a quote and reference, but a reference alone doesn't explain anything. Jun 26, 2015 at 9:20

To hone in a bit more, but to speak in nuanced precision:

C2R, Here are two words that I believe used together accomplish your goal. Conceptually you have an individual who is convinced of his moral position and wishes to impose same on others by projecting dominating power and bragging on himself. Sometimes it can be more effective to state the offense as a noun rather than construct a phrase for name calling.

To pontificate refers to the Pope (pontiff). When he speaks "ex cathedra" he is God's voice to mankind. The fun noun form of what a braggart does is braggadocio. Sounds worse because of it's Italian sounding ending. So with all due apologies to my Italian Catholic friends :), one might sardonically say this individual is engaging in:

"pontificating braggadocio"

  • Welcome to ELU, KdC. Now, can you augment your answer with some definitions and any other information which would support your suggestions, and edit this supplemental info into your answer?
    – user98990
    Jun 25, 2015 at 19:16
  • Hi Karlos de Chico. Not everyday language but your suggestion does cover the two concepts. Thanks! And, don't you think that no matter how we describe such a person (whether in a fun way or serious), it is going to sound disparaging?
    – C2R
    Jun 25, 2015 at 19:58
  • Hi Lil Eva & C2R. Sardonic means scornfully derisive, mocking. Yes C2R, describing such a person is going to sound disparaging because the person's actual behavior is deserving of disparagement. Per Little Eva's request, the reason for creatively communicating to an individual self-aggrandizing to this degree is name-calling hasn't slowed him, he feeds on attention. Speaking in 3rd person analysis is a dismissive lack of respect. "Braggadocio" speaks to veracity, "pontificating" identifies self-delusion. Tactically, layered meaning causes him to pause and look common. Deliver w/swag. :) Jun 25, 2015 at 21:58
  • Oops, new here. I get it. I'm supposed to edit the orig post & insert the hard info stuff into the post so as to improve the post as a better solution to etymological request. Sounds like a fun exercise flexing the vocab musculature. I'll get to it after a bit. Get my literary loco-motion goin'. (see Little Eva) Jun 25, 2015 at 22:30
  • @KarlosdeChico Thanks for taking the time to analyze and be creative. I'm new on here as well. About my comment above - I didn't mean to disagree but rather to rehash (and add to) your point about using a noun. Although, I think it would have to be a phrase anyway (your suggestion is verb + noun and others here have used verb + adj + noun) and would seem like I'm calling names in a slick manner. Just wouldn't have an immediate disparaging effect :D But I'm actually only looking to describe such a person in creative writing. So, thanks again. And no, I won't copy.
    – C2R
    Jun 26, 2015 at 2:26

Prig -- Google definition is "Self-righteous, moralistic person who behaves as if they are superior to others." Short, sharp and to the point!


I think this gets at the "imposing" part, and covers quite a few of the characteristics you want:


imperious [im-peer-ee-uh s]


  1. domineering in a haughty manner; dictatorial; overbearing: an imperious manner; an imperious person.

I think (as OP suggested in a comment) that "imperious braggart" gets part of the way, but there's a reason that sanctimonious has so many upvotes. I kind of think sanctimony gets you a bit of the braggart part, so maybe a phrase along the lines of "possessed of an imperious sanctimony" or "having an air of imperious sanctimony". Imperious gets the pushy part, sanctimony totally nails the self-righteousness aspect you are going for. Maybe "possessed of a self-aggrandizing, imperious sanctimony" to make sure you get the braggart part in. I would like "imperious, sanctimonious braggart" except that the two -ious endings sounded kind of repetitive to me when I first sound-tested it. I feel less that way about it after having read it a few times.

  • msouth. Right. Now I'd add for the bragging part. 'Imperious braggart' ?
    – C2R
    Jun 26, 2015 at 2:43
  • 1
    msouth. Yes, 'imperious, sanctimonious braggart' conveys all that I want but sounds repetitive. I think using all the words from your suggested phrase in a single sentence in different clauses will be the best solution for that. I'll find that a little tricky but doable. Thanks :)
    – C2R
    Jun 27, 2015 at 10:15

A dogmatist tries to impose his or her beliefs or values on others.


a person who asserts his or her opinions in an unduly positive or arrogant manner; a dogmatic person


You could also describe the person as dogmatic:


asserting opinions in a doctrinaire or arrogant manner; opinionated: I refuse to argue with someone so dogmatic that he won't listen to reason.


  • Hi Nicole.Both sound good. I like the focus on the asserting bit.
    – C2R
    Jun 25, 2015 at 16:30

I would call them self-absorbed. If you throw a big, or seldom used, word out there it would appear that you are doing the same thing as the subject is doing.

  • @LindaLawson-Bruton Self-absorbed is quite right, I guess. But I'm looking for something longer. I would want it to be clear and simple too :)
    – C2R
    Jun 25, 2015 at 18:01


suːpəˈsɪlɪəs,sjuː-/ adjective behaving or looking as though one thinks one is superior to others.


Sounds to me like a good example of a twat.


the English language is chock full of such descriptors. they all fall under the main heading "a**hole". there are the definitive branching of this into

religious: "Hypocrite, Televangelist, Evangelist, missionary, preacher , dogmatist, overbearing, self-righteous, chosen, pontificate, forgiven ",

professional: "Lawyer, Attorney, politician, activist, CEO, civic leader, mayor, flag waiver, (govt) social worker, Tzar, appointed, official"

and generic:" pompous, condescending, judgmental, parent, conservative, liberal, sociopath, arrogant, proud, conceited, braggart, narcissistic, sanctimonious, entitled".



Characterized by an exaggerated display of self-importance or dignity; boastful, vainglorious; arrogant; presumptuous, pretentious. OED

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