de·​ceive di-ˈsēv How to pronounce deceive (audio)
deceived; deceiving

transitive verb

: to cause to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid
deceiving customers about the condition of the cars
bluffing at poker in order to deceive the other players
archaic : ensnare
… he it was whose guile … deceived the mother of mankind …John Milton
obsolete : to be false to
You have deceived our trust …Shakespeare
archaic : to fail to fulfill
… nor are my hopes deceived.John Dryden
archaic : to while away
These occupations oftentimes deceived the listless hour …William Wordsworth
obsolete : cheat
deceived me of a good sum of money …William Oldys

intransitive verb

: to make someone believe something that is not true : to practice deceit
also : to give a false impression
appearances can deceive
deceiver noun
deceivingly adverb
Choose the Right Synonym for deceive

deceive, mislead, delude, beguile mean to lead astray or frustrate usually by underhandedness.

deceive implies imposing a false idea or belief that causes ignorance, bewilderment, or helplessness.

tried to deceive me about the cost

mislead implies a leading astray that may or may not be intentional.

I was misled by the confusing sign

delude implies deceiving so thoroughly as to obscure the truth.

we were deluded into thinking we were safe

beguile stresses the use of charm and persuasion in deceiving.

was beguiled by false promises

Example Sentences

Her parents punished her for trying to deceive them. He was accused of deceiving the customer about the condition of the car. People who think they can eat whatever they want without harming their health are deceiving themselves. Remember that appearances can deceive—just because something looks good doesn't mean it is good.
Recent Examples on the Web Whitsett said his staff has worked on formations that can deceive opponents on where Wheeler will be on a kickoff, preventing them from kicking away from him. Rick Kretzschmar, Dallas News, 25 Oct. 2022 Forensic scientists and psychologists have studied why people deceive. Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi, Discover Magazine, 25 Apr. 2022 Unfortunately, many scammers and fraudsters saw the pandemic as an opportunity to deceive vulnerable citizens. Kaitlyn Koterbski, Fortune, 15 Dec. 2022 To Ashai, the Afghan passport suggests the Masts’ willingness to deceive. Rozina Ali, New York Times, 10 Nov. 2022 Some may find Stelfie's attempts to sell the images as NFTs unpalatable (the tech is controversial), but simulated time travel is arguably a novel entertainment use of technology that can otherwise create deepfakes and potentially deceive others. Benj Edwards, Ars Technica, 20 Dec. 2022 Labeling legal provisions ‘loopholes’ is a tactic to deceive and to advocate for broader and vaguer gun-control laws across the nation. Cody J. Wisniewski, National Review, 7 Dec. 2022 For example, one tweet that blew up was how a Senior Data Twitter Engineer could technically deceive Elon Musk by creating a plausible idea of code contribution. José Adorno, BGR, 5 Dec. 2022 With Simon & Schuster unlikely to have been looking to deliberately deceive buyers when the duplications were so likely to be easily spotted, speculation will ensue as to how the company came to believe the books were individually signed. Chris Willman, Variety, 20 Nov. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'deceive.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Middle English, from Anglo-French deceivre, from Latin decipere, from de- + capere to take — more at heave entry 1

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of deceive was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near deceive

Cite this Entry

“Deceive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


de·​ceive di-ˈsēv How to pronounce deceive (audio)
deceived; deceiving
: to cause to believe what is untrue : mislead
deceived the customer about the condition of the car
: to use or practice deceit
deceiver noun
deceivingly adverb

Legal Definition


deceived; deceiving

transitive verb

: to cause to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid

intransitive verb

: to practice deceit compare defraud, mislead

More from Merriam-Webster on deceive

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