- a member of a Jewish sect that flourished during the 1st century b.c. and 1st century a.d. and that differed from the Sadducees chiefly in its strict observance of religious ceremonies and practices, adherence to oral laws and traditions, and belief in an afterlife and the coming of a Messiah.
- (lowercase) a sanctimonious, self-righteous, or hypocritical person.
Origin of Pharisee
- Judaism a member of an ancient Jewish sect that was opposed to the Sadducees, teaching strict observance of Jewish tradition as interpreted rabbinically and believing in life after death and in the coming of the Messiah
- (often not capital) a self-righteous or hypocritical person
Word Origin and History for pharisee
from Old English Fariseos, Old French pharise (13c.), and directly from Late Latin Pharisæus, from Greek Pharisaios, from Aramaic perishayya, emphatic plural of perish "separated, separatist," corresponding to Hebrew parush, from parash "he separated." Ancient Jewish sect (2c. B.C.E.-1c. C.E.) distinguished by strict observance but regarded as pretentious and self-righteous, at least by Jesus (Matt. xxiii:27). Meaning "self-righteous person, formalist, hypocrite" is attested from 1580s.