crocodile tears, crying/to cry

crocodile tears, crying/to cry

Pretended grief; hypocritical sorrow. The term comes from an ancient myth that a crocodile weeps while eating its prey. It was quoted by the English traveler Sir John Mandeville in 1400 but was already current far earlier, in Roman times. Indeed, the writer Spartianus, in his Lives of the Emperors (ca. a.d. 300), said that the Emperor Caracalla shed crocodile tears at the death of some of his enemies. The term was picked up by Shakespeare, Sir Francis Bacon, and numerous other writers, and was a cliché by the time Tennyson wrote, “Crocodiles wept tears for thee” (“A Dirge,” 1830).
See also: crocodile, cry, crying