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Hypocrisy is the state of pretending to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that one does not actually have. Hypocrisy involves the deception of others, often maliciously or callously, or of oneself, often because of desires or needs to cling to various forms of comforting delusions which further exposure to truth would diminish or eradicate.

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  • And the veil
    Spun from the cobweb fashion of the times,
    To hide the feeling heart?
    • Mark Akenside, Pleasures of Imagination (published 1744), Book II, line 147.


  • A musician would not willingly consent that his lyre should be out of tune, nor a leader of a chorus that his chorus should not sing in the strictest possible harmony; but shall each individual person be at variance with himself, and shall he exhibit a life not at all in agreement with his words?
  • He that puts on a religious habit abroad to gain himself a great name among men, and at the same time lives like an atheist at home, shall at the last be uncovered by God and presented before all the world for a most outrageous hypocrite.
  • Saint abroad, and a devil at home.
  • Oh, for a forty-parson power to chant
    Thy praise, Hypocrisy! Oh, for a hymn
    Loud as the virtues thou dost loudly vaunt,
    Not practise!
  • Be hypocritical, be cautious, be
    Not what you seem but always what you see.


  • And prate and preach about what others prove,
    As if the world and they were hand and glove.


  • People who are stupid, unscrupulous, or hypocritical, think that others are just the same. And — this is the real pity — they treat them as if they were.



  • No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true.
  • There is a principle, supposed to prevail among many, which is utterly incompatible with all virtue or moral sentiment; and as it can proceed from nothing but the most depraved disposition, so in its turn it tends still further to encourage that depravity. This principle is, that all benevolence is mere hypocrisy, friendship a cheat, public spirit a farce, fidelity a snare to procure trust and confidence; and that while all of us, at bottom, pursue only our private interest, we wear these fair disguises, in order to put others off their guard, and expose them the more to our wiles and machinations.
    • David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (1751), Appendix 2


  • Hypocrisy is the necessary burden of villainy; affectation, part of the chosen trappings of folly! The one completes a villain, the other only finishes a fop. Contempt is the proper punishment of affectation, and detestation the just consequence of hypocrisy.


  • When a man puts on a Character he is a stranger to, there's as much difference between what he appears, and what he is really in himself, as there is between a Vizor and a Face.
    • Jean de La Bruyère, The Characters or Manners of the Present Age (1688), Of Men, Chapter XI.
  • L'hypocrisie est un hommage que le vice rend à la vertu.
    • Hypocrisy is the homage which vice renders to virtue.
    • Alternate translation: Hypocrisy is a tribute vice pays to virtue.


  • Society mediates between the extremes of, on the one hand, intolerably strict morality and, on the other, dangerously anarchic permissiveness through an unspoken agreement whereby we are given leave to bend the rules of the strictest morality, provided we do so quietly and discreetly. Hypocrisy is the grease that keeps society functioning in an agreeable way, by allowing for human fallibility and reconciling the seemingly irreconcilable human needs for order and pleasure.
  • You never come right out and admit you have stretched the rules for your own benefit. You do it and shut up about it, and hope you don't get caught, because if you are caught no one—or no one who has any sense—will come forward and say he has done the same thing himself.
    • Janet Malcolm, The Journalist and the Murderer (1990). New York: Knopf, p. 55.
  • Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.
  • For neither man nor angel can discern
    Hypocrisy, the only evil that walks
    Invisible, except to God alone,
    By his permissive will, through heav'n and earth.


  • He was a man
    Who stole the livery of the court of Heaven
    To serve the Devil in.
  • In sermon style he bought,
    And sold, and lied; and salutations made
    In Scripture terms. He prayed by quantity,
    And with his repetitions long and loud,
    All knees were weary.
  • Constant at Church and 'Change; his gains were sure;
    His givings rare, save farthings to the poor.


  • Thou hast prevaricated with thy friend,
    By underhand contrivances undone me:
    And while my open nature trusted in thee,
    Thou hast slept in between me and my hopes,
    And ravish'd from me all my soul held dear.
    Thou hast betray'd me.
    • Nicholas Rowe, Lady Jane Grey (1715), Act II, scene 1, line 235.


  • 'Tis too much proved—that with devotion's visage
    And pious action we do sugar o'er
    The devil himself.
  • I will speak daggers to her, but use none;
    My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites.
  • Away, and mock the time with fairest show;
    False face must hide what the false heart doth know.
  • But then I sigh; and, with a piece of scripture,
    Tell them that God bids us do good for evil:
    And thus I clothe my naked villainy
    With old odd ends stolen out of holy writ;
    And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.
  • So smooth he daub'd his vice with show of virtue,
    * * * * * *
    He liv'd from all attainder of suspect.


  • How inexpressible is the meanness of being a hypocrite! how horrible is it to be a mischievous and malignant hypocrite.
    • Voltaire, Dictionnaire philosophique portatif ("A Philosophical Dictionary") (1764), Philosopher, Section I.


  • I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being really good all the time. That would be hypocrisy.
    • Oscar Wilde, Importance of Being Earnest (1895), Act II.


  • A man I knew who lived upon a smile,
    And well it fed him; he look'd plump and fair,
    While rankest venom foam'd through every vein.
    • Edward Young, Night Thoughts (1742-1745), Night VIII, line 336.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 383-84.
  • Thus 'tis with all; their chief and constant care
    Is to seem everything but what they are.
  • Some hypocrites and seeming mortified men, that held down their heads, were like the little images that they place in the very bowing of the vaults of churches, that look as if they held up the church, but are but puppets.
    • Attributed to Dr. Laud by Bacon, Apothegms, No. 273.
  • Not he who scorns the Saviour's yoke
    Should wear his cross upon the heart.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)[edit]

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
  • Woe unto thee if after all thy profession thou shouldst be found under the power of ignorance, lost in formality, drowned in earthly-mindedness, envenomed with malice, exalted in an opinion of thine own righteousness, leavened with hypocrisy and carnal ends in God's service.
  • Hypocrites do the devil's drudgery in Christ's livery.
  • When you see a man with a great deal of religion displayed in his shop window, you may depend upon it he keeps a very small stock of it within.
  • If you think that you can sin, and then by cries avert the consequences of sin, you insult God's character.
  • Men turn their faces to hell, and hope to get to heaven; why don't they walk into the horsepond, and hope to be dry?

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