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I know that the word 偽善者 exists in Japanese and is listed in Japanese-English dictionaries as the translation of 'hypocrite'.

But the kanji 偽善 and the definition make me wonder what the actual word I'm looking for is.

The definition given for 偽善者 is usually something like: 偽善を行う人。

And the definition for 偽善 is usually something like: うわべをいかにも善人らしく見せかけること。また、そういう行為。

The meaning I'm thinking of when I say 'hypocrite' or 'hypocritical' in English is engaging in the same behaviors that you condemns others for, whereas the Japanese definitions make me think of someone just pretending to be good/nice to hide their true feelings.

What would be the best word choice for the same meaning in Japanese?

  • Very interesting question. Now that I think about it, perhaps 偽善 would be closer to "dissembling" than "hypocrisy"? – senshin Jan 23 '15 at 21:21
  • What Merriam-Webster says about hypocrisy is clearly not what I think 偽善 is. – broccoli forest Jan 24 '15 at 13:36
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    @broccoliforest It seems the meaning of hypocrisy changed over the years. The OED gives its original meaning as "The assuming of a false appearance of virtue or goodness, with dissimulation of real character or inclinations [...]", but over time it came to be used the way Merriam-Webster describes it. I think that when bilingual dictionary editors originally added an entry for 偽善 = hypocrisy, it made more sense than it does today, now that the meaning has shifted in English. – snailboat Apr 30 '15 at 2:29
  • @snailboat Thank you for a interesting information! A language always changes silently... – broccoli forest Apr 30 '15 at 22:25
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It's not a 100% match but pretty close to the nuance you are looking for. Often you point out something like this in Japanese as: 矛盾{むじゅん}している。

E.g. 言葉{ことば}と行動{こうどう}が矛盾{むじゅん}してる。

That is, "your words and your actions are contradictory".

Hope that helps!

  • I didn't even think about looking for a similar word, but you're right, 矛盾 seems to fit quite nicely with the nuance I want. I'm going to accept this as my answer :) – Jake Lucas Jan 24 '15 at 20:53
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This is often shortened to 言動矛盾.

  • Thank you for letting me know. It's unfortunate that I can't accept two answers! – Jake Lucas Jan 25 '15 at 11:24

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