crocodile tears(redirected from Crocodile tear)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Encyclopedia.
A false, insincere, or hypocritical display of sadness or remorse. Derived from an ancient anecdote that a crocodile will weep to lure in its victims, or that it weeps as it eats them. The prime minister's crocodile tears belie the government's involvement with the massacre of its citizens. Jessica shed crocodile tears over the expulsion of her rival, Jacob.
An insincere display of grief, as in When the play's star broke her leg, her understudy wept crocodile tears. This term comes from the mistaken notion that crocodiles weep while eating their prey, one held in ancient Roman times. The actual term was picked up by Shakespeare and many other writers after him, and remains current. [Late 1500s]
False or hypocritical displays of emotions. A 14th-century adventurer named Sir John Mandeville reported that crocodiles attract their prey's sympathy by weeping and then continued to cry while consuming their victims. Shakespeare referred to such a belief in Othello: “O devil, devil! If that the earth could teem with woman's tears, / Each drop she falls would prove a crocodile.” An alternate explanation is that since those reptiles cannot cry, then crocodile tears are nonexistent shows of emotion. However, and for what's it's worth, zoologists tell us that crocodiles do in fact have functional tear ducts, although with no emotional connection.