Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A member of an ancient Jewish sect that emphasized strict interpretation and observance of the Mosaic law in both its oral and written form.
  • n. A hypocritically self-righteous person.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. One of a sect or party among the Jews, noted for a strict and formal observance of rites and ceremonies and of the traditions of the elders, and whose pretensions to superior sanctity led them to separate themselves from the other Jews.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. One of an ancient Jewish school, sect, or party which was specially exact in its interpretation and observance of the law, both canonical and traditional.
  • n. Any scrupulous or ostentatious observer of the outward forms of religion without regard to its inward spirit: a formalist; hence, a scrupulous observer of external forms of any kind; in general, a hypocrite.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a self-righteous or sanctimonious person
  • n. a member of an ancient Jewish sect noted for strict obedience to Jewish traditions

Etymologies

Middle English pharise, from Old English fariseus and from Old French pharise, both from Late Latin pharīsaeus, from Greek pharīsaios, from Aramaic pərišayyā, pl. of pəriš, separate, from pəraš, to separate; see prš in Semitic roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

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