"member of an 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 (Matthew xxiii.27), c. 1200, Pharise, from Old English Fariseos, Old French pharise (13c.), and directly from Late Latin Pharisæus, from Greek Pharisaios, from Aramaic (Semitic) perishayya, emphatic plural of perish "separated, separatist," corresponding to Hebrew parush, from parash "he separated." Extended meaning "any self-righteous person, formalist, hypocrite, scrupulous or ostentatious observer of the outward forms of religion without regard to its inward spirit" is attested from 1580s.
updated on May 12, 2020