From the ancient belief that crocodiles shed tears while consuming their prey.
- (idiomatic) A tear shed insincerely, in a false display of sorrow or some other emotion.
1877, Charles Reade, chapter 2, in The Woman Hater:
- At last he contrived to squeeze out one of his little hysterical tears, and drop it on her hand. Now, the girl was not butter, like some of her sex; far from it: but neither was she wood—indeed, she was not old enough for that—so this crocodile tear won her for the time being.
- (idiomatic, in the plural) A display of tears that is forced or false.
1864, Anthony Trollope, chapter 19, in Can You Forgive Her?:
- And in all her letters since, she had spoken of her aunt as a silly, vain, worldly woman, weeping crocodile tears, for an old husband whose death had released her from the tedium of his company.
a tear shed falsely
display of tears that is forced or false