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odor of sanctity

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Exaggerated or hypocritical piety, an assumption of moral superiority, as in This candidate puts off some voters with his odor of sanctity. This expression, originating in the medieval idea that the dead body of a saintly individual gives off a sweet smell, was used to describe saintliness in the mid-1700s. Today it is generally used ironically.

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

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