I'm looking for a word that describes someone who pretends to be virtuous in order to please or gain people's trust.

I'm looking for a word that precisely has this definition. I've thought of words like hypocrite, sanctimonious, and insincere but they don't encompass all the components in the definition I gave.


  • Please indicate what words you've considered and rejected, and why. – Jason Bassford Jul 25 '18 at 19:28
  • Two-faced or pretentious? – jmrpink Jul 25 '18 at 19:39
  • I sometimes call people like that 'whited sepulchres' which, my wife says, ages me somewhat. – Michael Harvey Jul 25 '18 at 19:46
  • @Michael Harvey ages you because it's from the Bible? I don't get it. Or is there some other reference I'm missing? Did whited sepulchre use to be common in everyday language? – Zebrafish Jul 25 '18 at 19:51
  • 1
    In my opinion "sanctimonious" is close to perfect for the description you gave. – Zebrafish Jul 25 '18 at 19:58

While not strictly referring to pretending to be virtuous, poseur might work for you.



A person who behaves affectedly in order to impress others.

(From the Oxford Dictionaries)

| improve this answer | |

Hypocrite is usually identified with publicly presenting a false front of virtue. Phony, charlatan, fake, and four-flusher also indicate falsity, but not necessarily in the area of virtue.

| improve this answer | |

The 2nd definition of "virtue signaling" fits, but perhaps "fake virtue signaling" is more clear for your context? my own search for the same word led me here, but I'm not yet satisfied.... I'll keep looking.

Urban Dictionary lists six reader-supplied definitions of virtue signalling.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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