In Portuguese we have a word sonso* plus a slang expression João-sem-braço ("John-missing-an-arm" or more poetically "Joe-missing-an-arm" — don't ask me why) to define a person who is doing something illegal or immoral but is pretending not to be aware of that fact. Someone feigning innocence.

For example, there is a huge line to buy tickets or something. The person arrives at some point in the line and starts talking to someone at random and continues to be nearby, with the intention of cutting the line in a smooth way, without other people noticing.

Is there a word, a phrase, or some idiomatic expression (even if informal slang) to define that kind of person?

* Definition of sonso from the Dicionário Priberam:


(espanhol zonzo)
adjectivo e substantivo masculino

  1. Que ou quem finge ser o que não é. = DISSIMULADO, FINGIDO
  2. Que ou quem faz coisas reprováveis ou desonestas às escondidas.
  3. Que ou quem tem ares e aparência de ingénuo. = FINÓRIO, MANHOSO, VELHACO

Pronounced /ˈsõsu/ and meaning roughly:

  1. Something or someone that pretends to be or which isn’t. = DISSEMBLING, FEIGNED
  2. Something or someone that does reprehensible or dishonest things in secret.
  3. Something or someone that has the air or appearance of an innocent. = SLY, CUNNING, TREACHEROUS/RASCAL

2 Answers 2


The closest word that comes to mind is Disingenuous. According to Merriam Webster- Disingenuous

  • lacking in candor; also :  giving a false appearance of simple frankness.

The word Disingenuous has that particular connotation -"pretending to know little about things than someone actually does", so I think it's a great fit.

The word 'Ingenuous' has its roots in the slave-holding society of ancient Rome. Its ancestor ingenuus is a Latin adjective meaning "native" or "freeborn" (itself from gignere, meaning "to beget"). Ingenuus begot the English adjective ingenuous. That adjective originally means "freeborn" (as in "ingenuous Roman subjects") or "noble and honorable," but it eventually came to mean "showing childlike innocence" or "lacking guile." In the mid-17th century, English speakers combined the negative prefix dis-with ingenuous to create disingenuous, meaning "guileful" or "deceitful."

You could certainly try other words that are close but not as close such as

Mendacious, Duplicitous, Machivallian.

  • hi,I think disingenuous is a great fit also! thanks!
    – Duck
    Mar 31, 2017 at 15:48
  • Glad, I could be of help.
    – Rio1210
    Mar 31, 2017 at 16:13

Liars have many names:

  • Fast talker - A person who verbally manipulates others into doing or believing something, especially something that is not in their best interest. I could tell that he was a fast talker just by the way he tried to close the deal so quickly. - Farlex Dictionary of Idioms
  • Con artist - A person who exploits the vulnerability of others for his or her own sake by manipulating and taking advantage of their confidence (the act of which is known as a confidence trick or game). ...abbreviation of "confidence artist." Be wary of con artists who send e-mails claiming to be a bank. - Farlex Dictionary of Idioms
  • Bullshitter - Someone who offers empty content worthy of farm fertilizer - (Definition mine)
  • Swindler - To obtain by fraudulent means: swindled money from the company. - American Heritage Dictionary, 5th Ed.
  • Shark - To obtain by deceitful or underhand means. - American Heritage Dictionary, 5th Ed.

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