disinformation

noun

dis·​in·​for·​ma·​tion (ˌ)dis-ˌin-fər-ˈmā-shən How to pronounce disinformation (audio)
: false information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth

Examples of disinformation in a Sentence

The government used disinformation to gain support for the policy.
Recent Examples on the Web Russian disinformation operatives have also disseminated lies about race and social issues to foment unrest in the Black community, according to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Tribune News Service, The Mercury News, 11 June 2024 The use that anti-vaccine propagandists have made of the BMJ paper underscores the dangers of disinformation in public health today. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 11 June 2024 The bills seek the toughest restrictions in the nation on A.I., which some technologists warn could kill entire categories of jobs, throw elections into chaos with disinformation, and pose national security risks. Cecilia Kang, New York Times, 10 June 2024 For example, someone interested in online mis/disinformation and dreaming of a job at Google may not be aware of positions of interest with federal government agencies. Foreign Affairs, 10 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for disinformation 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'disinformation.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

dis- + information, after Russian dezinformácija

Note: Russian dezinformácija and the adjective derivative dezinformaciónnyj can be found in Soviet military science journals published during the 1930's. The Malaja Sovetskaja Ènciklopedija (1930-38) defines the word as "information known to be false that is surreptitiously passed to an enemy" ("dezinformacija, t.e., zavedomo lživaja informacija podkidyvaemaja protivniku"; vol. 3, p. 585). The verb dezinformírovat' "to knowingly misinform" is attested earlier, no later than 1925, and may have been the basis for the noun. In more recent decades claims have been made about the origin of the word that are dubious and cannot be substantiated. According to the former Romanian intelligence officer Ion Mihai Pacepa, "Iosif Stalin invented this secret 'science,' giving it a French-sounding name and pretending it was a dirty Western practice" (Ion Mihai Pacepa and Ronald J. Rychlak, Disinformation [Washington, D.C., 2013], p. 4). Martin J. Manning, in Historical Dictionary of American Propaganda (Westport, CT, 2004), pushes the word back still further: "Disinformation as a KGB weapon began in 1923 when I.S. Unshlikht, Deputy Chairman of the GPU, then the name of the KGB, proposed the establishment of a 'special disinformation office to conduct active intelligence operations ….' " No source is given for this quotation. The English word disinformation as a translation of the Russian one appears to have been introduced in an article written for the Saturday Evening Post under the byline of Walter Krivitsky, a Soviet intelligence officer who defected in the fall of 1937 and made his way to the U.S. in November, 1938. Krivitsky, in need of money, was aided in publishing a series of Saturday Evening Post articles by the journalist Isaac Don Levine and the socialist politician and historian David Shub. (The articles became the contents of a book, In Stalin's Secret Service, published in November, 1939.) More than simply aiding him, Shub and Levine presumably acted as translators and editors, seeing that Krivitsky most likely knew little or no English. He introduces the word disinformation after reporting a boast by a German that the Red Army was infiltrated by spies; Krivitsky rejoins in the first person: "I knew only too well the character of such evidence … it was the type of information designed especially for wide circulation, with the view toward undermining the morale of the enemy. In military-intelligence parlance, it is known as 'disinformation' " (Saturday Evening Post, April 22, 1939, p. 74).

First Known Use

1939, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of disinformation was in 1939

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Dictionary Entries Near disinformation

Cite this Entry

“Disinformation.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disinformation. Accessed 19 Jun. 2024.

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