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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 A 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.
tear shed falsely
display of tears that is forced or false