The Oxford dictionary defines "Hypocritical" as:

Behaving in a way that suggests one has higher standards or more noble beliefs than is the case.

However I derived word Hypocritical from personal experience to mean something along the lines of:

Going against your own word.

Or as Itolet put it: "does not practice what they preach"

Can someone shed light on the matter, as to how the Oxford definition translates to the more popularized "going against one's own word" usage of the word?

  • 'Hypocrite' derives from the word ὑποκριτής, hypokrites, which is Greek for a stage actor. Hypocrisy is a matter of putting on an act, pretending one is something that one is not. Merriam Webster.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 15, 2018 at 8:13
  • CED includes (in fact only gives) the very common (but not mandatory) 'not practicing what one preaches' sub-sense: << hypocritical: saying that you have particular moral beliefs but behaving in a way that shows these are not sincere >>. ODO's definition is more general, including the non-verbal situations such as not attending church but having a child 'Christened'. Mar 15, 2018 at 10:27

1 Answer 1


How does preaching something not suggest that one has certain (high) standards or noble beliefs?

The simplified "going against one's words" seems incomplete, because if I say I will do the dishes, but I don't, I may be a liar, I may be lazy, I may be untrustworthy, but I would not call that hypocritical.

If I tell everybody I firmly believe in sharing household responsibilities, but at home I let my partner do all the chores, then I'm hypocritical.

The difference lies in the fact that in the first case I do not express any standards or moral.

The Oxford definition seems to encompass both parts very well: I express certain morals, and I go against them, exactly as expressed in does not practice what they preach.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

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