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From the Bible verse Isaiah 65:5, a portion of which has often been quoted (“Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou.”), from Hebrew קְדֵשְׁתִּיךָ.


  • IPA(key): /ˈhəʊliə(r) ðən ˈðaʊ/
  • (file)


holier-than-thou (comparative more holier-than-thou, superlative most holier-than-thou)

  1. Sanctimonious, self-righteously or hypocritically pious.
    • 1874 May 21, “The Work of the National Board”, in Baltimore Underwriter, volume 11, number 21, Bombaugh & Ransom, page 421:
      [] there are local jealousies and disunities which are not likely to be soothed by the patent fact that companies which most strenuously assert the I-am-holier-than-thou claim daily violate the rules by which they profess to be invariably governed, []
      (Using an alternate form.)
    • 1887 November 18, “The Hippolytus of Eurpides”, in The Dartmouth (4th), volume 9, number 5, Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College, page 107:
      Hippolytus is quite insufferable in his endless protestations of pity and purity. One tires of such abnormal goodness and wishes for a little natural depravity. He is a perfect type of the “holier than thou” individual whose secret heart is a very stagnation of egotism, selfishness and disregard for others' feelings.
    • 1888, Fitz-Mac [James MacCarthy], “The Rev. Myron W. Reed”, in Political Portraits, Colorado Springs, CO: Gazette Printing, page 94:
      His garb is such as any gentleman might wear—a farmer, a thrifty mechanic, a teacher, or a plain business man—a brown slouch hat, any kind of a simple necktie, any kind of a coat except the unctuous holier-than-thou broadcloth with the front full of button holes.
    • 1952 March 29, Harry S. Truman, “Address at the Jefferson–Jackson Day Dinner”, in Harry S. Truman, 1952–53 (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States), Washington, DC: Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Service, published 1966, page 225:
      I don't think the “black is white” campaign of the Republican Party is going to succeed. I think the voters are going to see through this holier-than-thou disguise that our Republican friends are putting on.
    • 1980 December 1, Ray Hnatyshyn, “Judges Act”, in House of Commons Debates, Official Report, First Session—Thirty-second Parliament, 29 Elizabeth II, volume 5, Queen's Printer for Canada, page 5211, column 2:
      But I can understand the hon. member's sense of sanctimony; he has now been a member of the NDP caucus for a while and the holier-than-thou attitude has been bred into him.
    • 1991 July 8, George Herbert Walker Bush, “Interview With Foreign Journalists”, in George Bush, 1991 (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States), book 2, Washington, DC: Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration, published 1992, page 835:
      The Soviet economy is hurting now, and I say that not holier-than-thou, but it is; factually, the Soviet economy is in bad shape.