I see this phenomenon a lot in the context of politics and when people discuss social issues, but I'd like to offer a non-political example:

Example 1

Person A: This mathematics course has been amazing, I have learned a lot of new things!
Person B: It's good to have the basics down for when you decide to take part in an actually challenging course :)

Example 2

A and B work at the same company.

Person A: I got a raise!
Person B: Huh, they're handing raises? Maybe I should go ask for one as well!
Person A: I didn't have to ask for it, since I've been working hard :)

In example 1, I'm looking for a word for what Person B is doing and in example 2 I'm looking for a word for what Person A is doing. This is something that annoys me to no end - it can be so malicious while sounding so sincere and friendly.

I guess it could be interpreted as passive-aggressive as well, but I am pretty sure I have heard a different, more specific word for this.

  • repartee (witty replies); double entendre (a sentence purposefully composed with two different meanings); implication. "I've been working hard" in situation B seems to possibly imply "I've been working hard, (but you haven't)." The part which is not stated is implied. Person A in that situation should have said "handed out" -- that phrase implies giving things out without them being duly earned.
    – Brandin
    Nov 4, 2022 at 9:28

2 Answers 2


Patronizing might be the word you're looking for. Per the Collins Dictionary:

If someone is patronizing, they speak or behave towards you in a way that seems friendly, but which shows that they think they are superior to you.

The tone of the interview was unnecessarily patronizing.

  • 2
    Yes, that is exactly it! Thank you!
    – Swiffy
    Nov 4, 2022 at 9:31
  • 2
    Elements of irony and playing dumb, too. Nov 4, 2022 at 14:55
  • 1
    For some reason there are a lot of questions here about being patronizing. Searching the site will provide additional information on usage.
    – Stuart F
    Nov 4, 2022 at 16:00

I think this could also be considered Passive-aggressive.

From Merriam-Webster:

being, marked by, or displaying behavior characterized by the expression of negative feelings, resentment, and aggression in an unassertive passive way (as through procrastination and stubbornness)

They include the quote:

It is passive-aggressive behavior, the donning of a mask of amiability that conceals raw antagonism toward one's competitors, even one's friends.

I think this might describe a more noticeably negative interaction than the examples you provided, but I believe one could still consider the behavior expressed in your examples a mild case of this. People generally use it to describe someones response when they say something negative, pejorative, or cruel but disguise it with polite language, or say it in a non-confrontational way.

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