Hippocratic vs hypocritical

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Hippocratic and hypocritical are two words that are close in spelling and pronunciation, and are sometimes confused. We will examine the definitions of hippocratic and hypocritical, where these words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Hippocratic is an adjective that is related to the Greek physician, Hippocrates. It is almost exclusively used in the expression Hippocratic oath, which is a pledge that spells out the obligations and duties of conduct that a doctor must adhere to in medical practice. Hippocrates lived from 460 B.C. To 370 B.C., and is widely known as the father of Western medicine. Parts of the original work are still incorporated into today’s Hippocratic oath, perhaps the most often quoted portion is the phrase, “First, do no harm.” Note that the word Hippocratic is capitalized.

Hypocritical is also an adjective that describes behavior in which someone acts as though he has has high values, standards or principles, but does not actually possess these virtues. Related words are hypocrite, hypocrisy. The word hypocritical is derived from the Greek word hypokritikos which means pretending or acting as if.


The 2,500-year-old Hippocratic Oath, one of the most enduring documents in the history of medicine, has recently been revised to more appropriately reflect contemporary thinking. (The Virginia Gazette)

Claire, obligated by her Hippocratic Oath, volunteers to go aboard the diseased ship to help them sanitize the situation in hopes of saving as many men as possible. (TV Guide Magazine)

But this, from the president, is typically tactless, hypocritical, and completely allergic to dignity. (Esquire Magazine)

Former All-Ireland-winning manager Peter McGrath believes the GAA are guilty of being hypocritical after they decided to kill off the Railway Cup. (The Belfast Telegraph)