verb de·ceive \ di-ˈsēv \
Updated on: 4 Jan 2018

Definition of deceive

deceived; deceiving
transitive verb
1 archaic : ensnare
  • … he it was whose guile … deceived the mother of mankind …
  • —John Milton
2 a obsolete : to be false to
  • You have deceived our trust …
  • —Shakespeare
b archaic : to fail to fulfill
  • … nor are my hopes deceived.
  • —John Dryden
3 obsolete : cheat
  • deceived me of a good sum of money …
  • —William Oldys
4 : 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
5 archaic : to while away
  • These occupations oftentimes deceived the listless hour …
  • —William Wordsworth
intransitive verb
: to make someone believe something that is not true : to practice deceit; also : to give a false impression
  • appearances can deceive




play \-ˈsē-viŋ-lē\ adverb

Examples of deceive in a Sentence

  1. Her parents punished her for trying to deceive them.

  2. He was accused of deceiving the customer about the condition of the car.

  3. People who think they can eat whatever they want without harming their health are deceiving themselves.

  4. Remember that appearances can deceive—just because something looks good doesn't mean it is good.

Recent Examples of deceive from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of deceive

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

deceive Synonyms

bamboozle, beguile, bluff, buffalo, burn, catch, con, cozen, delude, dupe, fake out, fool, gaff, gammon, gull, have, have on [chiefly British], hoax, hoodwink, hornswoggle, humbug, juggle, misguide, misinform, mislead, snooker, snow, spoof, string along, sucker, suck in, take in, trick, do a number on, lead one down the garden path (also lead one up the garden path), pull one's leg, pull the wool over one's eyes
Related Words
kid, put on, tease; bleed, cheat, chisel, defraud, diddle, euchre, flam, fleece, gyp, hustle, mulct, rook, shortchange, skin, squeeze, stick, sting, swindle
Near Antonyms
debunk, expose, reveal, show up, uncloak, uncover, unmask; disclose, divulge, tell, unveil; disabuse, disenchant, disillusion

Synonym Discussion of 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

DECEIVE Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of deceive for English Language Learners

  • : to make (someone) believe something that is not true

DECEIVE Defined for Kids


verb de·ceive \ di-ˈsēv \

Definition of deceive for Students

deceived; deceiving
1 : to cause to believe what is not true : mislead
  • His lies deceived me.
2 : to be dishonest and misleading
  • Appearances can deceive.

Law Dictionary


verb de·ceive

legal Definition of deceive

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

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