Crocodile Tears – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to tell someone that you see through their display of false affection or sorrow for your situation? If so, you could ask them to stop their “crocodile tears” for you. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The expression “crocodile tears” refers to someone feigning genuine sorrow or empathy for your situation. They understand what you are going through, but they don’t really care about your problems.

The person could be a friend, college, family member, or acquaintance. They project an inauthentic sympathy for your situation and empathize with you. However, they may be secretly laughing at you on the inside.

Example Usage

“Look at Gene acting as if she cares about what’s happening in Sam’s life. She hates the girl, yet she acts as if she cares. Those are nothing but crocodile deals, and that girl is a real sociopath.”

“Stop with your crocodile tears. I know you don’t like me, and you’re laughing on the inside right now. Take your fake sympathy somewhere else, please.”

“I know what you’re doing, and I don’t like it. You can take your crocodile tears and give them to someone else. I know you’re being insincere.”

“I was sympathizing with Samantha earlier. I even had some crocodile tears going for her. The thing is, I don’t really care what happens to her.”


The origin of the expression “crocodile tears” comes from the myth that crocodiles cry while devouring their prey.

While crocodiles do have lachrymal glands that produce tears, they serve the purpose of lubricating the eyeballs. However, crocodiles are incapable of feeling emotion, and they don’t cry out of an emotional response.

Some language experts believe the expression has French origins dating back to 1230. However, the first written recording of the expression comes from “The Voyage and Travail of Sir John Maundeville,” published circa 1400.

“In that contre … ben gret plentee of Cokadrilles … Theise Serpentes slen men, and thei eten hem wepynge.”

This saying translates to “There are many crocodiles – These serpents slay men, and then, weeping, eat them.”

However, the expression would only appear in its modern format in the 16th century. Edmund Grindal, the Archbishop of York and Canterbury, used the phrase to describe insincerity in 1563. The book would go on to republish as “Strype’s Life of Grindal” in 1711, where the term appears as follows.

“I begin to fear, lest his humility … be a counterfeit humility, and his tears crocodile tears.”

Phrases Similar to Crocodile Tears

  • Academy Award performance.
  • fake tears.

Phrases Opposite to Crocodile Tears

  • Croo monkey.
  • Crooked-stemmed Aster.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Crocodile tears.

Ways People May Say Crocodile Tears Incorrectly

The phrase “crocodile tears” doesn’t refer to tears coming from a crocodile or alligator. These animals produce tears to lubricate their eyes, just like humans, but the expression has nothing to do with crocodiles. You wouldn’t use the saying to indicate a genuine response of sadness in someone.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Crocodile Tears

You can use the phrase “crocodile tears” in social and professional situations where you’re telling someone that they are overreacting or faking that they are upset.

For instance, if your college seems upset about you being fired from your job, but they always treated you poorly at work, you could tell them to stop with their “crocodile tears.”

If someone doesn’t like you in your social circle and feigns crying or being upset with something bad happening to you, you could use the expression to let them know that you know they are only acting with their emotional response.

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