Sanctimonious vs sanctify

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Sanctimonious and sanctify are two words with similar roots but very different meanings. We will examine the definitions of the words sanctimonious and sanctify, where these terms came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Sanctimonious is an adjective that describes behaving as if one is morally superior to others or attempting to appear as if one is more pious than others. Calling someone sanctimonious is derogatory, and carries the connotation of pointing out a person’s hypocrisy. The word sanctimonious is derived from the Latin word sanctus meaning holy and the suffix -ous which is used to form adjectives from nouns. Related words are sanctimoniously, sanctimoniousness, sanctimony. Originally, the word sanctimonious was used to mean pious or morally superior, but at some time the term came to be used ironically or sarcastically, to mean someone who appears to be pious or morally superior but is not.

Sanctify means to make something holy, to declare something holy, to consecrate or to purify. Sanctify is a transitive verb, which is a verb that takes an object. Related words are sanctifies, sanctified, sanctifying. Note the retention of the letter y in sanctifying. The word sanctify is derived from the Old French word saintefier, meaning to make holy, taken from the Latin word sactificare, which in turn was derived from the Latin word sanctus.


For decades, one of the most sanctimonious moralizers in American politics has been Roy Moore, the longtime Bible-thumper in Alabama who crusaded against gays, transgender people, Islam and “sexual perversion.” (The New York Times)

“Besides sounding sanctimonious and patronising, Idris Buang’s whole speech is misconceived and based on erroneous assumptions,” Siah said in a press statement yesterday. (The Borneo Post)

“Unleash the Gospel,” he said, imagines couples formed into a communion centered on Jesus Christ and following him to sanctify all aspects of life, so they can go forth and sanctify the world by their witness. (The National Catholic Register)