I am looking for a noun to describe a person who embodies the philosophical concept of inauthenticity and Sartre-ean bad faith. This would be someone whose public image does not reflect their core beliefs and values, for the reasons of opportunism or because they have none.

In my native language (Serbo-Croatian-Bosnian), the word is poltron and the English cognate thereof seems to be "poltroon" but the broad meaning (coward) seems to lack the specificity it has in my language, i.e. the connotation of inauthenticity, value betrayal, and opportunism. Another word that comes to mind is "conformist" but that also doesn't seem specific enough.

  • Synonyms could include hypocrite, phony, fraud, pretender, dissembler, deceiver, liar, pietist, sanctimonious person, plaster saint, sham, fake, and so on...
    – DJohnson
    Mar 28 '18 at 17:57

I would think "fraud" or "hypocrite" to be the most applicable words, barring a specific context. Note that the word hypocrite appears in common usage and is recognized by Oxford's but not Merriam Webster's dictionaries.


one who makes false claims of identity or expertise (Merriam Webster)


A hypocritical person. (Oxford)

where Hypocrisy is:

the pretending of having virtues, principles, or beliefs that one in fact does not have (Merriam Webster)

For particular contexts:

If you are referring specifically to a person who acts in an inauthentic way intentionally for profit then the vernacular would probably be "con-man" or "con artist." This seems fitting since they trade on the confidence of their "mark" and that false confidence a con-man cultivates is generally a confidence of authenticity.

If, on the other hand, you are referring to an intangible or emotional status you might consider the term "impostor" which has seen a recent renaissance in the rise of impostor syndrome: essentially a doubting of one's own authenticity.

Synonyms of fraud charlatan, fake, faker, hoaxer, humbug, impostor (or imposter), mountebank, phony (also phoney), pretender, quack, ringer, sham

Words Related to fraud copycat, imitator, impersonator, mimic actor, bluffer, counterfeiter, deceiver, dissembler, duper, feigner, misleader, operator, trickster poseur cozener, defrauder, dodger, scammer, sharper, sharpie (or sharpy), skinner, swindler (Merriam Webster)

Synonyms of Hypocrite

sanctimonious person, pietist, whited sepulchre, plaster saint, humbug, pretender, deceiver, dissembler, impostor (Oxford)

  • I personally prefer "fraud" for this. "Hypocrite" would (imo) only be accurate if part of the act involved specifically denouncing something that they secretly do themselves. Mar 28 '18 at 19:07
  • @KamilDrakari I think you're on the right track. The wiki article states of Sartre's view "In this manner, authenticity is connected with creativity: the impetus to action must arise from the person in question, and not be externally imposed." Therefore our choice of words would, by definition be a result of how the person we are referring to is interacting with their "authenticity." I don't have the authority to say when to choose one word over the other but I strongly believe that intention of the person is how we choose the word. Mar 28 '18 at 20:15

I believe the term you are looking for is opportunist

(Definition from Collins)



  1. a person who adapts his actions, responses, etc, to take advantage of opportunities, circumstances, etc

Hope this is helpful!

  • 1
    'Opportunist' only covers one of the cases. Mar 28 '18 at 18:36

charlatan TFD

n. A person who makes elaborate, fraudulent, and often voluble claims to skill or knowledge; a quack or fraud.

As in:

The charlatan pretended to be a doctor so he could go into the hospital and steal prescription drugs.

After the charlatan tricked Janet out of her life savings, he became wanted by the police.

  • no, charlatan implies incompetent imposturing -- not really betrayal of one's values
    – amphibient
    Mar 28 '18 at 18:20

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