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From Latin Pharisaeus, from Ancient Greek Φαρισαῖος (Pharisaîos), a transliteration of Aramaic פְּרִישַׁיָּא (pərîšayyâ’), emphatic plural of פְּרִישׁ (pərîš, separatist, literally separated), related to Hebrew פרוש (parush), qal passive participle of the verb פָּרַשׁ (pāraš), meaning one who is separated for a life of purity.


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Pharisee (plural Pharisees)

  1. A member of a ancient Jewish political party, a social movement, and a school of thought among Jews that flourished during the Second Temple Era (536 BCE–70 CE). The movement was ultimately the basis for most contemporary forms of Judaism.
  2. (figuratively, by extension) A person who values the letter of the law over its spirit or intention.
    • 1611, Authorized Version
      Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
    • circa 1870, Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening,
      The spider fattens himself on flies, and the Pharisee has his reward. Foolish persons are easily entrapped by the loud professions of pretenders, and even the more judicious cannot always escape.

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  • Ernest Klein, Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language.