Crocodile tears

Crocodile tears

The term Crocodile tears refers to a false or insincere display of emotion. The expression comes from an ancient anecdote that crocodiles weep in order to lure their prey, or that they cry for the victims they are eating. They are fake tears.

An alternate explanation for the expression's origin is that crocodile tears cannot be authentic because crocodiles cannot cry; they lack tear ducts. Yet this is a myth: Crocodiles possess lacrimal glands which secrete a proteinaceous fluid, just like in humans, though tears will only be visible after a crocodile is out of the water for a prolonged period of time, and dries out. However, while crocodiles can and do generate tears, they do not weep or cry for remorse.

One prominent use of the expression is by Shakespeare in Othello Act 4, Scene 1

O devil, devil!

If that the earth could teem with woman's tears,

Each drop she falls would prove a crocodile.

Out of my sight!

The Crocodile tears syndrome is an uncommon consequence of recovery from Bell's palsy where faulty regeneration of the facial nerve causes sufferers to shed tears while eating.

In popular culture

In the 2004 romantic comedy, Along Came Polly, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a former child star who appeared in the fictional film Crocodile Tears.

In Rudyard Kipling's Just-So-Story, The Elephant's Child, the Crocodile generously reveals himself by weeping crocodile tears.


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